The Muslims of America

By Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad | Go to book overview

argued that Muslims have a choice between secularism or an outmoded system, unless and until they return to the Qur'an and interpret it by understanding much of its content as general moral-ethical guidance and prescription and not rigid law. That is, the Qur'an can and must be liberated from its prison of commentary and law and applied in fresh ways and with flexible principles to new realities. Rahman was convinced that not only can the Qur'an withstand such employment, but only in this way can it prevail, leading Muslims to meet the challenges of the modern age and helping advance all modern life with renewed faith and dedication. Such an approach to the Qur'an can be likened to the Protestant reformers' conviction that the Bible is sole authority in doctrinal and communal matters. As the Bible was liberated from the medieval structures of Catholic tradition and interpretation, so also can the Qur'an be recovered as it was intended to be: the reliable, dynamic guidance that provides the principles for all imaginable circumstances, problems, developments, and opportunities that its faithful community will encounter.

We have surveyed three areas of Fazlur Rahman's thought as a way of discerning and appreciating his legacy. It is still too early to predict with certainty what his long-term influence will be. But it is safe to predict that there will be such influence and it will be significant, not simply because of the extent of his engagement with issues and persons over the past forty years, but even more because of the depth and quality of his engagement with the enduring sources and processes of both the Islamic and the Western intellectual heritage: namely, the Qur'an and Sunna, on the one side, and philosophy on the other. It would not be perverse, although it might surprise some, to suggest that Rahman considered the infinitely inventive human intellect to be, apart from the Revelation itself, the main "sign" (aya) of God's benevolent and just purposes in the created realm. The Qur'an certainly is the fundamental authority and its commands must be obeyed; but without the believers' intellectual exertion (ijtihad) to comprehend and apply it within the often confusing and contradictory circumstances of historical process, it will languish as a prisoner of dead tradition instead of being permitted to shed its full illumination and regenerating power in the Umma and the world. At bottom, Fazlur Rahman was fulfilled in his remarkable intellectual and activist Muslim odyssey through an eventful and productive life because he was both a keen student and a faithful servant of the Qur'an. His legacy is fundamentally intellectual and moral, as is suggested by the relative proportions dedicated to his thought in this essay. As for the religious-communal dimensions, it is up to Muslims to take Rahman's legacy and invigorate it through the actual structures and dynamics of corporate Muslim life.

The thesis was published as Avicenna's Psychology ( London: Oxford University Press, 1952). It is a translation and commentary of Ibn Sina's Kitab al-Najat, Book II, Chapter VI


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The Muslims of America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Religion in America Series *
  • The Muslims of America *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Contributors *
  • Introduction- the Muslims of America 3
  • Notes 8
  • I- The Muslims of the United States *
  • 1- Muslim Organizations in the United States 11
  • Notes 24
  • 2- Estimate of Muslims Living in America 25
  • Notes 35
  • References 36
  • II- Perceptions of Muslims in the United States *
  • 3- Perspectives of American Churches on Islam and the Muslim Community in North America 39
  • Notes 49
  • 4- The Muslim as the "Other" 53
  • Notes 61
  • III- Islamic Thought in the United States *
  • 5- Ismail R. Al-Faruqi 65
  • Notes 78
  • 6- Seyyed Hossein Nasr 80
  • Notes 92
  • 7- The Legacy of Fazlur Rahman 96
  • Notes 105
  • IV- Islamic Activity in the United States *
  • 8- Political Activity of Muslims in America 111
  • Notes 123
  • 9- Da''Wa in the West 125
  • Notes 134
  • 10- Muslims in Prison 136
  • Notes 151
  • 11- Islamic Education in the United States and Canada 157
  • Notes 173
  • V- Muslim Women in Intercultural Perspective *
  • 12- African-American Muslim Women 177
  • Notes 186
  • 13- Two-Way Acculturation 188
  • Notes 200
  • VI- American Muslims and the Question of Identity *
  • 14- Islamic Issues for Muslims in the United States 205
  • Notes 215
  • 15- American Foreign Policy in the Middle East and Its Impact on the Identity of Arab Muslims in the United States 217
  • Notes 231
  • 16- Convergence and Divergence in an Emergent Community 236
  • Notes 248


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