Tag Archives: Islamic Studies

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!

Study Quran : a new translation and commentary

We recently had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Joseph Lumbard from American University of Sharjah (AUS) to discuss his work on the recently published Study Quran : a new translation and commentary.

This is one of the most extensive works on the Quran in the English language and will likely be a key reference for years to come. Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an accomplished scholar and authority in Islamic studies, this volume offers the following to students and scholars:

  • A new English translation of the Quran that is accurate, accessible, and reliable in how it renders this sacred text.
  • A wide-ranging verse-by-verse commentary that brings together the most respected and distinguished traditions of metaphysical, spiritual, theological, and legal interpretation of the Quran within Islam.
  • A helpful introduction to each surah that provides an overview and background of its teachings
  • Essays by fifteen internationally renowned scholars on how to read and understand the Quran and its role in shaping Islamic civilization.
  • A beautiful two-color, two-column design that presents the sacred text and commentary in the spirit of traditional Quran manuscripts.
  • Maps, a time line of historical events, comprehensive indexes, and other features to aid reading.

Our copy is coming in next month, so let us know if you want to check it out.

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!

U.S. Intelligence on the Middle East, 1945-2009 (Brill)

Brill US intelligence databaseWe recently acquired a new database from Brill entitled U.S. Intelligence on the Middle East, 1945-2009.

According to the publisher:

This comprehensive document set sheds light on the U.S. intelligence community’s spying and analytic efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. It covers the time period from the end of World War II to the present day, up until the 2002-2003 Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) assessments, the Global War on Terror, the Iraq War, and Iran’s nuclear program.

Included in the database are “top secret” declassified primary source documents such as CIA briefings. Each document includes other relevant primary sources, reference works, bibliographies, books, and journal articles. A “background” essay by editor Matthew M. Aid puts the sources in the context of the U.S. Intelligence community’s “misadventures” in the Middle East, including key dates and events in the region. A supplemental bibliography, glossary, and chronology help build an even clearer contextual picture.

This database will be useful for researchers of Middle Eastern history and politics, U.S. foreign policy in the region, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the Syrian civil war, both U.S.-led wars in Iraq, the Iranian revolution and nuclear program, as well as other countries like Lebanon, Libya, and Jordan.

Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī : philosopher, mystic, and theologian

Abu Hamid al-GhazaliRecently the Arab Crossroads department hosted an exciting talk by our professor of philosophy Kalle Taneli Kukkonen about the ethics of Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (1058–1111), arguably the most famous and influential Muslim philosopher, theologian, jurist, and mystic of all time. The library is equipped with numerous scholarly resources for students interested in researching al-Ghazālī’s life and thought.

You can begin your search with the Encyclopedia of Islam and Oxford Islamic Studies.

Next, you can look into al-Ghazālī’s autobiography Al-munqidh min al-ḍalāl (Deliverance from Error), translated and annotated by Richard Jospeh McCarthy.

Maybe you’d like to explore the controversy that erupted between al-Ghazālī and his contemporary Ibn Rushd, known in the West as Averroës. We have the English-Arabc parallel text of Tahāfut al-falāsifah (the Incoherence of the Philosophers).

Or perhaps you’d like to examine al-Ghazālī’s magnum opus, Iḥyāʿ ʿUlūm al-Dīn (Revival of the Religious Sciences). We have the original Arabic as well as many high-quality translations of several of its chapters published by the Islamic Text Society.

As always, let us know if you need any help!