Salaam Dear Reader,
All praise be to God; Who has given us all that is good, Who has blessed us with the opportunity to connect people with knowledge. And salutations be upon our Masterﷺ, the opener of what was closed. We are thankful for the support of readers like you as well as our guest scholars over the past two years. And we are thankful for completing two years' worth of systematic, thematic reading. Alhamdulillah.
The theme for the Islamic Civilisation Book Club 2022 is Islamic Civilisation and the Modern World. Over the past centuries the modern world has disrupted traditional religious order, rooted as it was in transcendence, with new ideas such as those espoused by Marx, Darwin, and Freud. When Nietzsche pronounced that 'God is dead', he predicted that people will not know what is up or down anymore because it is as if we have unhinged the planet from its orbit. And, here we are, unhinged.
In our book club in 2021, we read books about Islam and other religious-based civilisations. We learned that there was much in common with these civilisations because adherents of world religions believe in a transcendent God, and believe that all human beings are within the same moral universe; the Golden Rule would fall apart otherwise. But how should people of religion, and Muslims in particular, interact and find common purpose with the modern secular world in order to bring about peace, respect, and human flourishing?
The modern world has done much to exclude religion and any discussion of human participation in transcendence and the Hereafter. Do we reciprocate and retreat to our own silos? Yet, if we do not reach out to areligious people, are we not betraying our beliefs about the universality of our religion's teachings?
More recent modern theorists have pointed out that a clash of civilisations is inevitable. Some others declared the matter moot, claiming that we are at the end of history because Western liberal democracy is the only possible way to organise humanity. Religious fundamentalists, on the other hand, have in the past decades tried to reclaim hegemony with their own brand of violence and oppression, paradoxically taking the nihilistic approach of burning everything down to achieve a utopian purity. It is not difficult to see that these modes of engagement lead to mutual self-destruction.
In Abdul Hakim Murad's seminal book Travelling Home, there is a chapter with the title, 'Push Back with Something More Beautiful - Minority Muslims from Complainants to Therapists'. The chapter is in part a commentary on verses 34 to 35 of Surah Fussilat in the Quran. Abdul Hakim Murad proposes an epistemic shift in the way we think about our response to the modern world, and this is by pushing back with something more beautiful, in order to establish moral excellence and beauty. But we must first recognise that we have something beautiful to give to the modern world.
So it is in this spirit that we embark on the book club for 2022. We want to learn about the modern world, its secular underpinnings and historical pathways, not to mock or engage in name-calling, or to stoke the flames of indignation. Rather, we seek to understand because we recognise that there is a metaphysical commonality that binds all human beings: that we are all created out of love by the All-Merciful.
There will be a two changes this year.
Our first session, technically 'Session Zero', will be on 26 December 2021, Sunday, at 10:30am. This will be an intention-setting session in which our book club chair, Dr Muhd Mubarak, will present an overview of the theme for 2022 and he will run down the list of books we will be reading. It will also be an opportunity for us all to renew our intentions as we commit our effort and time to the six books in the book club.
Please refer to this page for more information on the book club.
Session 0: Intention Setting
When: 26 Dec 2021, Sunday, 10:30am
Zoom Link: Click here (Opens only during event)
Meeting ID: 827 3348 1879
May Allah bless us in all that we begin, and in all that we persevere in.