In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power

Transaction Publishers
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Americans' awareness of Islam and Muslims rose to seemingly unprecedented heights in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, but this is not the first time they have dominated American public life. Once before, during the period of the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis of 1979 to 1981, Americans found themselves targeted as a consequence of a militant interpretation of Islam. Daniel Pipes wrote In the Path of God in response to those events, and the heightened interest in Islam they generated. His objective was to present an overview of the connection between in Islam and political power through history in a way that would explain the origins of hostility to Americans and the West. Its relevance to our understanding of contemporary events is self evident.

Muslim antagonism toward the West is deeply rooted in historical experience. In premodern times, the Islamic world enjoyed great success, being on the whole more powerful and wealthier than their neighbors. About two hundred years ago, a crisis developed, as Muslims became aware of the West's overwhelming force and economic might. While they might have found these elements attractive, Muslims found European culture largely alien and distasteful. The resulting resistance to Westernization by Muslims has deep roots, has been more persistent than that of other peoples, and goes far to explain the deep Muslim reluctance to accept modern ways. In short, Muslims saw what the West had and wanted it too, but they rejected the methods necessary to achieve this. This, the Muslim trauma, has only worsened over the years.

"Scholarly, far-ranging, and thoughtful... the debate is interesting, and Pipes has made a stimulating contribution to it."-The New Republic

"Brilliant, authoritative... demonstrates encyclopedic knowledge of Muslim intellectual history... Few other writers have explained so lucidly such complex developments in Muslim history."-The Washington Post

"He has resisted a widespread tendency to translate Muslim self-expression into social science jargon as unintelligible as any mosque harangue. His unadorned interpretation strikes a judicious balance between faithfulness to sources and clarity of presentation."-The American Spectator

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and a columnist for the New York Post and the Jerusalem Post. Among his books are The Long Shadow: Culture and Politics in the Middle East (published by Transaction), Greater Syria: The History of an Ambition, Friendly Tyrants: An American Dilemma, and The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Aftermath and the West.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Transaction Publishers
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Published on
Dec 31, 1983
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Pages
373
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ISBN
9781412826167
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Middle East / General
Political Science / General
Religion / Islam / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In popular and academic literature, jihad is predominantly assumed to refer exclusively to armed combat, and martyrdom in the Islamic context is understood to be invariably of the military kind. This perspective, derived mainly from legal texts, has led to discussions of jihad and martyrdom as concepts with fixed, universal meanings divorced from the socio-political circumstances in which they have been deployed through the centuries. Asma Afsaruddin studies in a more holistic manner the range of significations that can be ascribed to the term jihad from the earliest period to the present and historically contextualizes the competing discourses that developed over time. Many assumptions about the military jihad and martyrdom in Islam are thereby challenged and deconstructed. A comprehensive interrogation of varied sources reveals early and multiple competing definitions of a word that in combination with the phrase fi sabil Allah translates literally to "striving in the path of God." Contemporary radical Islamists have appropriated this language to exhort their cadres to armed political opposition, which they legitimize under the rubric of jihad. Afsaruddin shows that the multivalent connotations of jihad and shahid recovered from the formative period lead us to question the assertions of those who maintain that belligerent and militant interpretations preserve the earliest and only authentic understanding of these two key terms. Retrieval of these multiple perspectives has important implications for our world today in which the concepts of jihad and martyrdom are still being fiercely debated.
Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies," Bernard Lewis has been for half a century one of the West's foremost scholars of Islamic history and culture, the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, and The Muslim Discovery of Europe. Eminent French historian Robert Mantran has written of Lewis's work: "How could one resist being attracted to the books of an author who opens for you the doors of an unknown or misunderstood universe, who leads you within to its innermost domains: religion, ways of thinking, conceptions of power, culture--an author who upsets notions too often fixed, fallacious, or partisan." In Islam and the West, Bernard Lewis brings together in one volume eleven essays that indeed open doors to the innermost domains of Islam. Lewis ranges far and wide in these essays. He includes long pieces, such as his capsule history of the interaction--in war and peace, in commerce and culture--between Europe and its Islamic neighbors, and shorter ones, such as his deft study of the Arabic word watan and what its linguistic history reveals about the introduction of the idea of patriotism from the West. Lewis offers a revealing look at Edward Gibbon's portrait of Muhammad in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (unlike previous writers, Gibbon saw the rise of Islam not as something separate and isolated, nor as a regrettable aberration from the onward march of the church, but simply as a part of human history); he offers a devastating critique of Edward Said's controversial book, Orientalism; and he gives an account of the impediments to translating from classic Arabic to other languages (the old dictionaries, for one, are packed with scribal errors, misreadings, false analogies, and etymological deductions that pay little attention to the evolution of the language). And he concludes with an astute commentary on the Islamic world today, examining revivalism, fundamentalism, the role of the Shi'a, and the larger question of religious co-existence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. A matchless guide to the background of Middle East conflicts today, Islam and the West presents the seasoned reflections of an eminent authority on one of the most intriguing and little understood regions in the world.
A fascinating, accessible introduction to Islam from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zealot and host of Believer

FINALIST FOR THE GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD 

In No god but God, internationally acclaimed scholar Reza Aslan explains Islam—the origins and evolution of the faith—in all its beauty and complexity. This updated edition addresses the events of the past decade, analyzing how they have influenced Islam’s position in modern culture. Aslan explores what the popular demonstrations pushing for democracy in the Middle East mean for the future of Islam in the region, how the Internet and social media have affected Islam’s evolution, and how the war on terror has altered the geopolitical balance of power in the Middle East. He also provides an update on the contemporary Muslim women’s movement, a discussion of the controversy over veiling in Europe, an in-depth history of Jihadism, and a look at how Muslims living in North America and Europe are changing the face of Islam. Timely and persuasive, No god but God is an elegantly written account that explains this magnificent yet misunderstood faith.

Praise for No god but God
 
“Grippingly narrated and thoughtfully examined . . . a literate, accessible introduction to Islam.”—The New York Times
 
“[Reza] Aslan offers an invaluable introduction to the forces that have shaped Islam [in this] eloquent, erudite paean to Islam in all of its complicated glory.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
“Wise and passionate . . . an incisive, scholarly primer in Muslim history and an engaging personal exploration.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Acutely perceptive . . . For many troubled Muslims, this book will feel like a revelation, an opening up of knowledge too long buried.”—The Independent (U.K.)
 
“Thoroughly engaging and excellently written . . . While [Aslan] might claim to be a mere scholar of the Islamic Reformation, he is also one of its most articulate advocates.”—The Oregonian
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