Being a Nonbeliever in a Time of Islamic Revival: Trajectories of Doubt and Certainty in Contemporary Egypt

What is the function of logic in al-Kindī’s corpus? What kind of relation does it have with mathematics? This article tackles these questions by examining al-Kindī’s theory of categories as it was presented in his epistle On the Number of Aristotle’s Books (Fī Kammiyyat kutub Arisṭū), from which we can learn about his special attitude towards Aristotle theory of categories and his interpretation, as well. Al-Kindī treats the Categories as a logical book, but in a manner different from that of the classical Aristotelian tradition. He ascribes a special status to the categories Quantity (kammiyya) and Quality (kayfiyya), whereas the rest of the categories are thought to be no more than different combinations of these two categories with the category Substance. The discussion will pay special attention to the function of the categories of Quantity and Quality as mediators between logic and mathematics.

Samuli Schielke (2012). BEING A NONBELIEVER IN A TIME OF ISLAMIC REVIVAL: TRAJECTORIES OF DOUBT AND CERTAINTY IN CONTEMPORARY EGYPT. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 44 , pp 301-320 doi:10.1017/S0020743812000062

The Sociology of Islam

Anthropology Review Database review of The Sociology of Islam

Reviewed 10 Dec 2011 by:
Jack David Eller
Community College of Denver

[The Sociology of Islam: Secularism, Economy and Politics, Imprint: Ithaca Press, Editor: Tugrul Keskin, ISBN: 9780863723711, Size: 235 x 155mm, 520pp]

ABSTRACT:    This valuable set of essays explores themes and processes in modern global Islam as well as national cases of Islam, illustrating the diversity, dynamism, and modernization of Muslim religion and identity.

It is desperately important to sociologize Islam, especially because academia and the general public alike have so consistently essentialized and even demonized it. Of course, with or without our realization, Islam issociologized, that is to say, shaped and refracted by social context and social experience. And also of course, anthropology has been exploring and exposing the social diversity and the social construction of Islam with increasing frequency and success.For these reasons, The Sociology of Islam is a welcome addition to our knowledge of the religion. The collection consists of nineteen essays, including an introduction by the editor, organized into four sections. As Keskin explains in the introduction, a transnational sociological study of Islam effectively constitutes an anthropology of Islam, since both “can be described as a systematic study of the social, political, and economic aspects and transformations of Muslim societies in the context of an increasingly globalized world” (p. 1). Indeed, in addition to invoking anthropologists like Ernest Gellner and David Harvey, the introductory comments identify a number of themes and concerns central to anthropology, such as the definition of “a collective Muslim identity” (p. 5), modernity and secularization, and neoliberalism and globalization. Finally, Keskin emphasizes the variety of Islam, in particular the shari’a-based Islam that most people know (and fear) as well as the market-oriented Islam that Keskin regards as “the ‘modernity-friendly’ version of Islam” (p. (16). In a word, “Islam is not a static religion” nor is it a single monolithic and asocial religion.

The first section, containing four chapters, is Islam, Economy, and Politics. These selections are particularly wide-ranging and thematic. For instance, Basak Ozaral examines the ‘moral economy’ of Islam or a specific ‘Islamic economics,’ characterized by “its emphasis on morality governing economic transactions, [which] has developed a substantial response to the challenges posed by a global economy shaped by modern rational capitalism” (p. 21). This articles provides some valuable information about Islamic concepts and institutions such as waqf (Muslim endowments), zakat (mandatory charity), and riba (usury or interest). Ovamir Anjum gives an analysis of ‘Islamic political tradition’ in the light of modernity in the Middle East, jumping off from the work of Olivier Roy and concluding that most Muslims seek both shari’a and democracy—seriously complicating both the question of the ‘compatibility’ of Islam with democracy and the very meaning of the term ‘democracy.’ Joshua Hendrick describes a particular instance of ‘neo-liberal’ and modern Islam, the Gulen Movement with its education network and its ‘apolitical politics.’ (For more on the Gulen Movement, see Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement, also reviewed in ARD.) Husnul Amin reports on ‘post-Islamism’ in Pakistan, which differs from Islamism in that (1) “the appeal of Islam has dwindled,” (2) the more exclusive and puritanical form of Islam has yielded to “more inclusive, society-centric, vigilant accounts of individual liberties,” and (3) it promotes a secularization of state with being “anti-Islamic or secular” (p. 91-2). (For more on the sort of post-Islamism discussed in the chapter, see Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami, also reviewed in ARD.)

The second section, Globalization and Islam, also features four chapters, beginning with Corri Zoli’s discussion of ‘the multicultural ummah (Islamic community). Zoli argues effectively that a global deterritorialized Islam forces us to question the familiar state/territory frame of culture, as Muslims themselves “are actively contemplating Islamic identity and practice today in ways that delimit the contemporary ummah and, at the same time, define the limits of the nation state as a vehicle to capture this dynamic Muslim identity” (p. 138). Melanie Reddig follows with an overtly Bourdieu-ian approach to the ‘religious field’ of contemporary Islam, focusing on the Salafi school and the impact of colonialism and post-colonialism on “traditional religious authority in Islam” (p. 154). David Johnston adds a selection on two Islamic reformers, Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Chandra Muzaffar, who differ strongly in the future Islam they envision but who “share the burden of reshaping the way the Islamic tradition has been co-opted both authoritarian regimes and by extreme ‘puritanical’ movements such as the Taliban and al-Qa’ida” (p. 179). Jeremy Walton brings the section to a close with a presentation on ‘civil Islam’ and ‘liberal piety’ based on an ethnography of Muslim charitable foundations in Turkey.

The remaining ten essays, divided into two sections, are basically national case-studies. In the third section, Muslim Society in the West, authors investigate Islam in some surprising national settings for most audiences, including Poland (Katarzyna Gorak-Sosnowska), England (Leon Moosavi), Brazil (Cristina Maria de Castro), and Italy (Enzo Pace and Annalisa Frisina). In these instances, Islamic identity and organization are clearly linked to immigration and to the existence (if not establishment) of non-Islamic religion. Moosavi’s article on Britian particularly raises the issue of ‘Islamophobia’ (for more, see Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives, also reviewed in ARD).

The final part, Islam and Muslim Societies, brings the discussion ‘home,’ after a fashion. Six essays consider Islam in Nigeria (Ogunbile), Malaysia (Joseph Tamney), Syria (Radwan Ziadeh), Indonesia (Siti Kusujiarti), and the United Arab Emirates (Kathryn Schellenberg and Mohamed Daasa). Collectively, they demonstrate the diversity with and the local influence on Islam, related in the various cases to ethnicity, economic development, and national politics. Two of the chapters are more thematic than the others: the chapter on the UAE explores expatriate workers in that small state, while Rachel Woodlock’s article on Islamic female dress is not only cross-cultural but also ‘cross-philosophical,’ importantly studying the question of female dress through four different Islamic ‘orientations,’ traditionalist, secularist, fundamentalist, and contextualist.

The Sociology of Islam is a very interesting and consistent anthology. Of course, as vast and complex as the topic, no single book could achieve the grand claim of being the sociology of Islam. However, these essays accomplish the goal of establishing that a sociology of Islam is possible and, more, that it is urgent. The chapters mostly represent ‘macro-sociology,’ most not engaging in the statistical preoccupations of much of ‘small’ sociology. In that regard, then, they have more in common with anthropology, which tends to explore and describe themes, processes, institutions, and experiences. Anthropologists can take some inspiration from the collection, which, most fundamentally and significantly, proves once and for all that Islam is not a static religion, nor a monolithic religion, nor an un-modernizable religion.

20% discount on the The Sociology of Islam: Secularism, Economy and Politics

It is our pleasure to announce the publication of our latest title, The Sociology of Islam: Secularism, Economy and Politics by Dr Tugrul Keskin, published in English for the first time by the help of the Centre for Islamic Contributions to Civilization (Qatar). If you wish to order the book from our website, please visit and enter the promotional code VOY2S0PI at checkout. ORDER HERE 

If you wish to receive a review or desk copy, please kindly send us your request to
Edited by Dr Tugrul Keskin
Hardback, 520pp, 235 x 155mm
Ithaca Press
ISBN: 9780863723711

New Paper: The People on the Edge: Religious Reform and the Burden of the Western Muslim Intellectual

Richard W. Bulliet

Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review 8 (2009), 7–18

A haunting and powerful image in the Qur’an depicts the people who, on the day of judgment, perch on the dividing barrier between heaven and hell and engage in a conversation with the inhabitants of both worlds (Qur’an 7: 46–49). The portrayal occurs only once in the Qur’an and is vague about the ultimate fate of these “people of the edge,” but they are given a generally sympathetic portrayal, and the implication is that they will end up on the safer side of the barrier.

[Read the article here]

The Sociology of Islam

by Tugrul Keskin

Assistant Professor of International and Middle East Studies at Portland State University

From the book The Sociology of Islam (forthcoming)
The theological understanding of Islam has been studied for the last 1,400 years. But this understanding cannot fully explain current social, political and economic transformations in the world today. In the modern world, we have a global financial system, a nation state, an oil-based economy, neo-liberal capitalism, popular culture, urbanization and social movements. In order to understand these phenomena in relation to Islam and Muslim societies, we must apply a sociological understanding of Islam as Ibn Khaldun did in the Muqaddimah in the fourteenth century.
In this context, the study of Islam as a religion is a very specific subject, but according to sociologist Anthony Giddens, every structure (such as Islam) has human agency. In the context of Islam, the agents are Muslims, and as sociologists, we systematically study Muslim behaviour within the structure of the religion. We also look carefully at the current and historic socio-economic and political context and the impact it has on human agency and behaviour. In this way, sociology is uniquely positioned to provide a multidimensional perspective and approach to the study of Islam and Muslim societies. Therefore, the sociology of Islam can be described as a systemic study of the social, political and economic aspects and transformation of Muslim societies in the context of an increasingly globalized world.
Today, we witness rapid changes in society, politics and the economy as a result of technological innovations, urbanization and the increased growth in access to education, as well as to media, as an overall trend. However, all of these changes have occurred within a different framework than those that took place a century ago in the era of industrialization. This is because the scale of change now taking place is global; therefore, there is no escape from it, as described by Weber (1996). However, it is not most accurately described as an iron cage either. These changes are best characterized as a revolution in human history, because they intend to create a new individual who is very different from those that lived in the pre-capitalist period. Today’s new individual is more work-oriented, consumes more, produces more, is more educated, reads more and lives in the city. I refer to this as a new stage in the development of capitalism, based on mass production and mass consumption and driven by the dehumanization of a global economic system.
In this new era, we observe the emergence of some social and political concepts that have swept the globe, such as modernity, secularism, democracy, human rights and freedom. According to pro-capitalist scholars such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich von Hayek and Karl Popper, all of these concepts are at least related to or are products of the capitalist system. I tend to agree with their observations; however, the system of capitalism also leads to unintended negative consequences for society, such as inequality, growth of the military machine, the atomic bomb, standardization of our daily life and the destruction of diversity, increased disciplinization, and rules and regulations that predominate in the name of the common good.
Today, while we have more bureaucratic political structures, we at least tend to be more rational, and society is more modern and secular than ever. We have departed from the social space, or a more mechanical form of solidarity where religion used to be a dominant institution, and are moving more towards an emphasis on an economically driven society. In this new society, mass production and mass consumption dominate every aspect of human life, including relations between people. Unlike Peter Berger’s argument (1999), I believe that we are now less religious and more economicus. In this context, Islam is the last world religion that has not been disciplined and secularized