Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education

Princeton University Press
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Since the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, the public has grappled with the relationship between Islamic education and radical Islam. Media reports tend to paint madrasas--religious schools dedicated to Islamic learning--as medieval institutions opposed to all that is Western and as breeding grounds for terrorists. Others have claimed that without reforms, Islam and the West are doomed to a clash of civilizations.

Robert Hefner and Muhammad Qasim Zaman bring together eleven internationally renowned scholars to examine the varieties of modern Muslim education and their implications for national and global politics. The contributors provide new insights into Muslim culture and politics in countries as different as Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. They demonstrate that Islamic education is neither timelessly traditional nor medieval, but rather complex, evolving, and diverse in its institutions and practices. They reveal that a struggle for hearts and minds in Muslim lands started long before the Western media discovered madrasas, and that Islamic schools remain on its front line.



Schooling Islam is the most comprehensive work available in any language on madrasas and Islamic education.

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About the author

Robert W. Hefner is Director of the Program on Islam and Civil Society at the Institute on Culture and Religious Affairs at Boston University. Muhammad Qasim Zaman is Robert H. Niehaus '77 Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religion at Princeton University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 16, 2010
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Pages
296
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ISBN
9781400837458
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Education
Religion / Islam / General
Religion / Religion, Politics & State
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the cleric-led Iranian revolution to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, many people have been surprised by what they see as the modern reemergence of an antimodern phenomenon. This book helps account for the increasingly visible public role of traditionally educated Muslim religious scholars (the `ulama) across contemporary Muslim societies. Muhammad Qasim Zaman describes the transformations the centuries-old culture and tradition of the `ulama have undergone in the modern era--transformations that underlie the new religious and political activism of these scholars. In doing so, it provides a new foundation for the comparative study of Islam, politics, and religious change in the contemporary world.

While focusing primarily on Pakistan, Zaman takes a broad approach that considers the Taliban and the `ulama of Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, and the southern Philippines. He shows how their religious and political discourses have evolved in often unexpected but mutually reinforcing ways to redefine and enlarge the roles the `ulama play in society. Their discourses are informed by a longstanding religious tradition, of which they see themselves as the custodians. But these discourses are equally shaped by--and contribute in significant ways to--contemporary debates in the Muslim public sphere.


This book offers the first sustained comparative perspective on the `ulama and their increasingly crucial religious and political activism. It shows how issues of religious authority are debated in contemporary Islam, how Islamic law and tradition are continuously negotiated in a rapidly changing world, and how the `ulama both react to and shape larger Islamic social trends. Introducing previously unexamined facets of religious and political thought in modern Islam, it clarifies the complex processes of religious change unfolding in the contemporary Muslim world and goes a long way toward explaining their vast social and political ramifications.

The first book to explore the modern history of Islam in South Asia

The first modern state to be founded in the name of Islam, Pakistan was the largest Muslim country in the world at the time of its establishment in 1947. Today it is the second-most populous, after Indonesia. Islam in Pakistan is the first comprehensive book to explore Islam's evolution in this region over the past century and a half, from the British colonial era to the present day. Muhammad Qasim Zaman presents a rich historical account of this major Muslim nation, insights into the rise and gradual decline of Islamic modernist thought in the South Asian region, and an understanding of how Islam has fared in the contemporary world.

Much attention has been given to Pakistan's role in sustaining the Afghan struggle against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, in the growth of the Taliban in the 1990s, and in the War on Terror after 9/11. But as Zaman shows, the nation's significance in matters relating to Islam has much deeper roots. Since the late nineteenth century, South Asia has witnessed important initiatives toward rethinking core Islamic texts and traditions in the interest of their compatibility with the imperatives of modern life. Traditionalist scholars and their institutions, too, have had a prominent presence in the region, as have Islamism and Sufism. Pakistan did not merely inherit these and other aspects of Islam. Rather, it has been and remains a site of intense contestation over Islam's public place, meaning, and interpretation.

Examining how facets of Islam have been pivotal in Pakistani history, Islam in Pakistan offers sweeping perspectives on what constitutes an Islamic state.

Civil Islam tells the story of Islam and democratization in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation. Challenging stereotypes of Islam as antagonistic to democracy, this study of courage and reformation in the face of state terror suggests possibilities for democracy in the Muslim world and beyond.

Democratic in the early 1950s and with rich precedents for tolerance and civility, Indonesia succumbed to violence. In 1965, Muslim parties were drawn into the slaughter of half a million communists. In the aftermath of this bloodshed, a "New Order" regime came to power, suppressing democratic forces and instituting dictatorial controls that held for decades. Yet from this maelstrom of violence, repressed by the state and denounced by conservative Muslims, an Islamic democracy movement emerged, strengthened, and played a central role in the 1998 overthrow of the Soeharto regime. In 1999, Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid was elected President of a reformist, civilian government.


In explaining how this achievement was possible, Robert Hefner emphasizes the importance of civil institutions and public civility, but argues that neither democracy nor civil society is possible without a civilized state. Against portrayals of Islam as inherently antipluralist and undemocratic, he shows that Indonesia's Islamic reform movement repudiated the goal of an Islamic state, mobilized religiously ecumenical support, promoted women's rights, and championed democratic ideals. This broadly interdisciplinary and timely work heightens our awareness of democracy's necessary pluralism, and places Indonesia at the center of our efforts to understand what makes democracy work.

In rich detail Jonathan Berkey interprets the social and cultural consequences of Islam's regard for knowledge, showing how education in the Middle Ages played a central part in the religious experience of nearly all Muslims. Focusing on Cairo, which under Mamluk rule (1250-1517) was a vital intellectual center with a complex social system, the author describes the transmission of religious knowledge there as a highly personal process, one dependent on the relationships between individual scholars and students. The great variety of institutional structures, he argues, supported educational efforts without ever becoming essential to them. By not being locked into formal channels, religious education was never exclusively for the elite but was open to all. Berkey explores the varying educational opportunities offered to the full run of the Muslim population--including Mamluks, women, and the "common people." Drawing on medieval chronicles, biographical dictionaries, and treatises on education, as well as the deeds of endowment that established many of Cairo's schools, he explains how education drew groups of outsiders into the cultural center and forged a common Muslim cultural identity.

Originally published in 1992.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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