What the world does not need is yet another book that assumes Islam can be abstracted out of evolving cultural contexts and neatly essentialized into print without repeating the obvious or glossing over the obtuse. This is—I believe and I hope—not such a book. I have no interest in telling you what Islam is, what it really must be, or even what it should be. In what follows I am more attuned to what Islam hopefully is not, at least not for someone who approaches it seriously as an anthropologist and historian. I bear no obvious axe to grind as either a determined detractor against the religion or an overanxious advocate for it. Personally, as well as academically, I consider Islam a fascinatingly diverse faith, a force in history that must be reckoned with in the present. The offensive tool I do choose to wield, if my figurative pen can stand a militant symbol, is that of a critical hammer, an iconoclastic smashing of the rhetoric that represents, overrepresents, and misrepresents Islam from all sides. By avoiding judgment on the sacred truth of this vibrant faith, I shift intention toward an I-view that takes no summary representation of Islam as sacred.
KeywordsMiddle East Arabic Text Ethnographic Fieldwork Seminal Text Native Arab Speaker
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