Tag Archives: Islam

Islam in the age of apps and social media

We know that the information age, with the advent of the internet and the iPhone, has made a big difference in the lives of people all over the world. But how has it affected the way Muslims practice Islam and network with each other?

Pioneering work on this topic has been done by Gary Bunt at the University of Wales. He argues, with much evidence, that the internet has profoundly impacted the way some Muslims perceive Islam, even that there now exist specific forms of “digital Islam” distinct from traditional methods of networking..

And not just the internet, but also Facebook, Twitter, and smart phone apps are changing views of Islam very rapidly and continuously, for better or worse. This ongoing process is being documented and discussed at Dr. Bunt’s website Virtually Islamic.

Do you have something you can add to the conversation?

Here is a short bibliography to get you started:

Bunt, Gary R. Virtually Islamic: Computer-mediated Communication and Cyber Islamic Environments. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000.

Bunt, Gary R. Islam in the Digital Age: E-jihad, Online Fatwas and Cyber Islamic Environments. London: Pluto Press, 2003.

Bunt, Gary R. iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Bunt, Gary R. “Surfing the App Souq: Islamic Applications for Mobile Devices.” CyberOrient 14.1 (2010).

El-Nawawy, Mohammed, and Sahar Khamis. Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Come to the library if you need help!

Oxford Handbooks are online all the time

Did you know that we can access the set of Oxford Handbooks online? (Click the link!)

We have many of these in print, but some of them we only have access to online. And FYI, some of these can only be accessed by going through the databases tab (link above) and cannot be accessed by searching in the books & more tab.

These handbooks are great references resources for getting yourself up to speed on a topic as quickly as possible, and they’re a great complement to Oxford Islamic Studies online.

Some of the handbooks most relevant to Islamic studies are the following:

  • The Oxford handbook of Islamic theology
  • The Oxford handbook of Islam and politics
  • The Oxford handbook of American Islam
  • The Oxford handbook of African American Islam
  • The Oxford handbook of European Islam
  • The Oxford handbook of the Abrahamic religions
  • The Oxford handbook of the sociology of religion
  • The Oxford handbook of religion and the American news media
  • The Oxford handbook of religion and the arts
  • The Oxford handbook of religion and violence
  • The Oxford handbook of religious diversity
  • The Oxford handbook of religion, conflict, and peacebuilding

There are even more exciting topics that can help you in a wide variety of subjects. Take a look through the database and see if you can find something that interests you!

So you have a research project – where to start?

When you’re beginning a research project from scratch and you don’t have enough background information, the best place to start are the well-known reference and introductory works on the subject.

These types of work have many titles: encyclopedias, companions, textbooks, dictionaries, bibliographies, lexicons, introductions, primers, handbooks, key to… etc.

Encyclopedias are usually the best place to start, as they have the most detailed level of research among reference works. Articles within them are supposed to be “a repository of all known facts,” i.e. a current overview of everything known on a given topic. They distill vast bodies of secondary research into a small space to make it easier for you to see the big picture.

Encyclopedias tend to range from very broad (i.e. Encyclopedia of Islam) to more specialized and specific (i.e. Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World). If you don’t know a lot already, you want to begin with the general topics and work your way into more specific materials. Imagine you are trying to find a little café in New York City. First, you might need to look at a map of the whole city, then at a map of Manhattan, then of a map of Uptown, and then a map of the subway. Same thing with encyclopedias and references.

While encyclopedias ought to be neutral, scholarship often advances from a relative viewpoint. You might notice that some encyclopedias lean towards various positions. That’s why it’s always a good idea to refer to multiple reference sources.

Sometimes the field of scholarship advances quickly and a new work appears at the time the reference encyclopedia was published. Keep in mind that recently published sources might not account for a year or two of secondary literature published after its writing. Even old encyclopedias have value as you can trace the intellectual history of a concept.

Take note, however, that reference works are usually not cited in academic papers. They’re mostly used for getting you up to speed on a topic.

Today, the most important references are online. My particular favorite is Oxford Islamic Studies, but all of them are generally good resources. Here are some of the go-to references in Islamic Studies:

Take a look at our Middle East Studies Research Guide for even more!

A look at knowledge in Islam during #UAEReads

Lots of booksThis year was declared the year of reading in the UAE, with a national campaign to promote literacy, books, and intellectual curiosity among the populace. You can follow the campaign on social media visa the hashtag #UAEReads.

Islamic civilization and cultures have many precedents and a rich history from which to draw support for such educational initiatives. It is widely believed that the first verse of the Quran to be pronounced was: Read! (Surat al-‘Alaq 96:1)

According to the late professor of Arabic literature at Yale University, Franz Rosenthal, knowledge was one of the key ideas motivating the development of Muslim traditions. In his classic work, Rosenthal writes:

For ‘ilm [knowledge] is one of those concepts that have dominated Islam and given Muslim civilization its distinctive shape and complexion. In fact, there is no other concept that has been operative as a determinant of Muslim civilization in all its aspects to the same extent as ‘ilm. This holds good even for the most powerful among the terms of Muslim religious life such as, for instance tawhid “recognition of the oneness of God,” ad-din “the true religion,” and many others that are used constantly and emphatically. None of them equals ‘ilm in depth of meaning and wide incidence of use. There is no branch of Muslim intellectual life, of Muslim religious and political life, and of the daily life of the average Muslim that remained untouched by the all-pervasive attitude toward knowledge as something of supreme value for Muslim being. ‘Ilm is Islam, even if the theologians have been hesitant to accept the technical correctness of this equation. The very fact of their passionate discussion of the concept attests to its fundamental importance for Islam.

Rosenthal, Franz. Knowledge Triumphant. Boston: Brill, 2007. p. 2.

We have access to many scholarly resources in the library that explore this topic from a variety of angles. Here is just a quick sample list:

As always, we’re happy to help you find more!

Islam and the foundations of political power

Islam and the foundations of political powerWith the declaration of a “caliphate” by the terrorist group ISIS (or Daesh) in June 2014, there has been a renewed interest in the history and conception of the Caliphate in Muslim discourse.

One of the most important primary sources representing the “secular” side of the debate was the short treatise entitled al-Islām wa-uṣūl al-ḥukm by ʻAlī ʻAbd al-Rāziq.

Writing near the time of the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate, ʻAlī ʻAbd al-Rāziq argued against the theological necessity of the Caliphate as a political system. His essay ignited a firestorm of debate in Egypt and throughout the Muslim world, solidifying divergent streams of political thought that still exist today.

Edinburgh University Press recently published an English translation and analysis of the work under the title Islam and the Foundations of Political Power. You can compare it to the original Arabic as well.

The argument rages on today, sometimes with violence and terror. Reading ʻAbd al-Rāziq’s work can help students and scholars better understand the terms and direction of the debate as it unfolded in the beginning of the 20th century until now.

Mark R. Cohen on Jews in the Muslim Middle Ages

Under Crescent and Cross Mark CohenThe Palestinian-Israeli conflict and other conflicts involving Jews and Muslims have the tendency to produce polemical views claiming the current animosity is simply a manifestation of age-old religious hatreds and prejudice. On the other hand, some have tried to counter this view by claiming Jews and Muslims historically coexisted peacefully in an ideal interfaith utopia. But which view is closer to the facts?

Professor Mark Cohen of Princeton University, who was a guest instructor at NYUAD last year, wrote a landmark study on this topic entitled Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages comparing the treatment of medieval minority Jewish communities in Muslim and Christian majority states through the lens of social anthropological theory. Rejecting the polemical and apologetic views, Professor Cohen demonstrates that relations between Jews and Muslims of the Middle Ages, though not utopic, were less confrontational and violent than their counterparts in Christendom.

The work struck a chord in the global discourse, having been translated into Turkish, Hebrew, German, Arabic, French, and Spanish. It is one of the best resources to approach to this topic, not only for scholars and specialists, but for those interested in the historical precedents of modern peaceful coexistence.

All about Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam

Rumi SufismSufism is the mystical and spiritual branch of Islam with roots in early Islamic history and it is widely practiced today in many countries. Our faculty previously hosted Zachary Wright from Northwestern University in Qatar to talk about the Tariqa Muhammadiyya, a Sufi movement in the 18th century Islamic world.

Would you like to know more?

You can start with some primers like Sufism: The Essentials by Mark Sedgwick and The Cambridge Companion to Sufism, or check out the articles on Sufism in The Encyclopedia of Islam and Oxford Islamic Studies Online.

Need something more advanced?

We have texts on Sufism practiced in different areas such as Sufism in Europe and North America, specific types of Sufism like the Shambhala Guide to Sufism, and much more.

In particular, you can look for primary sources like Principles of Sufism by Aishah bint Yusuf Ba’uniyah published in translation with Arabic text by NYU press, a great bilingual reader if you want to learn some classical Arabic!