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Contemporary Issues in Islam

Asma Afsaruddin

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Discusses key issues in Islam today, including Shari'a, jihad, politics, gender and interfaith relations

Key ‘hot-button’ contemporary issues in Islam, often at the centre of public scrutiny, are the focus of this book. By placing the discussion of topics such as the Shari'a, jihad, the caliphate, women’s status and interfaith relations within a longer historical framework, Contemporary Issues in Islam reveals their multiple interpretations and contested applications over time.

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1. Negotiating the Shoals of Modernity
2. Engaging the Sharia: Re-reading the Qur’an and Hadith
3. Islam and Politics
4. Islam, Gender, and Feminist Hermeneutics
5. War and Peacemaking in the Islamic Tradition
6. American Muslims and the Expansion of the Umma
7. Religious Dialogue and Inter-Faith Relations
Epilogue: Looking to the Future

About the Author

Asma Afsaruddin is Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author and/or editor of seven books, including Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (2013) and The First Muslims: History and Memory (2008). She was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2005.


'For many westerners, Islam appears peculiarly resistant to democracy, freedom, and women’s rights, while simultaneously prone to violence and oppression. While numerous Muslims can critique and challenge these stereotypes through personal contacts and dialogue, few of them write books in English that are up to this task. Fortunately, we now have Asma Afsaruddin’s new book, Contemporary Issues in Islam, which presents an openly liberal Muslim argument that Islam is (or should be) democratic, peaceful, empowering to women, and a collegial participant in interfaith dialogue.'
- Scott C. Lucas, Los Angeles Review of Books

'Contemporary Issues in Islam is a mature work that reflects decades of careful research and intellectual synthesis with ample attention to both primary and secondary literature. The monograph will likely appeal not only to scholars and students in religious studies and Islamic studies, but also political science and history as well as journalists.'

- Elliott Bazzano ,

'Our reviewer was impressed specifically with the originality of the methodology used, suggesting that the author ‘reveals herself as a considerable and formidable force in her knowledge of the historical development of the interpretation of Islam’s primary sacred sources, especially the Qur’an’. The author takes the approach of tracking every single verse and showing how understanding of the verse has changed throughout history, thus enabling the author to counter prevailing understandings of Islam as ‘anti-modern’. The reviewer concludes that the book is ‘beautifully constructed, highly knowledgeable of primary sources’ and ‘challenging to popular stereotypes’.'

- British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize

‘Reading no more than the contents section of this book, one gets a pretty good idea of its considerable overall importance, dealing as it is with "The Shoals of Modernity"; Political Islam; Islam Gender Hermeneutics; War and Peace Making in Muslim Tradition; American Muslims; and interfaith Relations…Asma Afsaruddin’s extraordinary analytical skills show everywhere.’

- Murad Wilfried Hoffmann, The Muslim World Book Review

This long after 9/11, Western public discourse about Islam appears to be getting (if possible) even less subtle and nuanced than ever before. Complex questions about context, power and history are increasingly shunned in favour of simpler and simpler questions about Islam’s timeless essence. Asma Afsaruddin reminds us in this learned and timely book that only a longer historical view allows us to better understand the complexities of the public expression of Islam in modern conditions that have been both imposed on Muslims from without and developed by them from within.

- Andrew March, Yale University

'Afsaruddin provides an excellent account of the central issues in Islam: modernity, politics and democracy, women, war and peace, international relations, interfaith dialogue, and Muslims in the West. She rejects ahistorical pronouncements on religious essences and relies on historical contextualization of the evolution and transformation of the meaning and application of key concepts now popular – Shari’a, jihad, caliphate, women’s roles, and the Islamic State. The book utilizes a sociological perspective of Islam, successfully shows the causes of misunderstanding Islam through the ages, and contributes to "the discussion of the hermeneutic and discursive strategies employed by contemporary Muslims to interrogate and negotiate these burning issues". Afsaruddin demonstrates "Islam’s fit for the modern man and woman who still concede a role to religion in their private and public lives." The liberal West’s commitment to socioeconomic and political justice at a global level, instead of narrow nationalist concerns, is needed to help with the transformation of Muslim-majority societies.'

- A. R. Abootalebi, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, CHOICE

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