Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop

Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop

Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop

Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop


Crucial to understanding Islam is a recognition of the role of Muslim networks. The earliest networks were Mediterranean trade routes that quickly expanded into transregional paths for pilgrimage, scholarship, and conversion, each network complementing and reinforcing the others. This volume selects major moments and key players from the seventh century to the twenty-first that have defined Muslim networks as the building blocks for Islamic identity and social cohesion.

Although neglected in scholarship, Muslim networks have been invoked in the media to portray post-9/11 terrorist groups. Here, thirteen essays provide a long view of Muslim networks, correcting both scholarly omission and political sloganeering. New faces and forces appear, raising questions never before asked. What does the fourteenth-century North African traveler Ibn Battuta have in common with the American hip hopper Mos Def? What values and practices link Muslim women meeting in Cairo, Amsterdam, and Atlanta? How has technology raised expectations about new transnational pathways that will reshape the perception of faith, politics, and gender in Islamic civilization?

This book invokes the past not only to understand the present but also to reimagine the future through the prism of Muslim networks, at once the shadow and the lifeline for the umma, or global Muslim community.


Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop is the second volume, following Carl W. Ernst's Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (2003), to be published in our series, Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks.

Why make Islamic civilization and Muslim networks the theme of a new series? At present, the study of Islam and Muslim societies is marred by an overly fractured approach that frames Islam as the polar opposite of what “Westerners” are supposed to represent and advocate. Islam has been objectified as the obverse of the Euro-American societies that self-identify as “the West.” Political and economic trends have reinforced a habit of localizing Islam in the “volatile” Middle Eastern region. Marked as dangerous foreigners, Muslims are also demonized as regressive outsiders who reject modernity. the negative accent in media headlines about Islam creates a common tendency to refer to Islam and Muslims as being somewhere “over there,” in another space and another mind-set from the socalled rational, progressive, democratic West.

Ground-level facts tell another story. the social reality of Muslim cultures extends beyond the Middle East. It includes South and Southeast Asia, Africa, and China. It also includes the millennial presence of Islam in Europe and the increasingly significant American Muslim community. in different places and eras, it is Islam that has been the pioneer of reason, Muslims who have been the standard-bearers of progress. Muslims remain integral to “our” world; they are inseparable from the issues and conflicts of transregional, panoptic world history.

By itself, the concept of Islamic civilization serves as a useful counterweight to that of Western civilization, undermining the triumphalist framing of history that was reinforced first by colonial empires and then by the Cold War. Yet when the study of Islamic civilization is combined with that of Muslim networks, their very conjunction breaks the mold of both classical Orientalism and Cold War area studies. the combined rubric allows no discipline to stand by itself; all disciplines converge to make possible a refashioning of the Muslim past and a reimagining of the Muslim future.

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