Tuesday 27 October 2009

Islamic literature by converts to Islam - IV

This is fourth in the series and concluding post on the subject.

The contribution to Islamic literature by converts to Islam from other religions has played a very important role in promoting Islam in the west. Despite the media frenzy that is often conferred on Islam, this religion has attracted many great personalities, though not always resulting in their conversion, during the last century. Often one hears suggestions that seem diabolical but these do reflect the extent to which Islam has attracted people's attention.

English is now the second language of the world of Islam after Arabic and Islamic literature published in English language is extremely important, not only for Muslims but for non Muslims as well. Where majority of the Islamic books published in other languages focus on theology, Fiqh and hair-splitting debates on issues that are a little concern of today's man, the research and publication of Islamic books in English language attempt to make Islam relevant to the Zeitgeist.

One of the reasons for this quality Islamic scholarship that has been produced by the converts is their ability to rationally analyse their faith. They discover their faith through a logical progression whereas those who "inherit" their faith do not necessarily go through the same process of self discovery. This often results in inability of the latter to analyse their faith rationally and resorting to arguments that defy logic. Conversion to another religion is not just a step. It marks a long and strenuous process which starts with challenging the existing models and then slowly replacing them with new paradigms. This process is underlined with intensive, and often painful, logical and philosophical dialogue with the self. The experience enables the converts to be able to relate the religion to life. Another fact is that traditional education, as imparted in the religious schools in Muslim countries, focuses on informing the pupils rather than encouraging them to ask questions and challenge the status-quo. This approach transcends into the habit of following an established authority blindly. The focus of western education is to develop analytical thinking and critical analysis skills in individuals. Having been brought up mostly in Europe and America, the converts (and other Muslims brought up in the west) are well equipped with these skills and are well placed to analyse and evaluate their beliefs. Autocratic governments and lack of necessary working conditions in Muslim countries have resulted in the emigration of many scholars to the west.

This certainly represents a possible shift in the centre of gravity of Islamic scholarship to the west. In the words of Murad Hofmann, "... the liveliness of intellectual life necessary for Islamic rejuvenation will probably be found rather in places like Los Angeles, Washington, Leicester, Oxford, Cologne, and Paris than in traditional centres of Muslim learning. It is, therefore, not far-fetched to expect the intellectual and spiritual revivification of Islam in the twenty-first century to be kindled and propelled from research done by qualified Muslim thinkers outside dar al Islam6."


  1. Dr Murad Hofmann, Islam: The Alternative (Maryland: Amana Publications, 1999), vii

  2. Ismail Ibrahim Nawwab, "A Matter of Love: Muhammad Asad and Islam," in Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss): Europe's Gift to Islam, ed. M. Ikram Chaghatai (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel, 2006), 137

  3. Dr Murad Hofmann, Journey to Islam: Diary of a German Diplomat: 1951-2000 (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 2001), 41

  4. Ismail Ibrahim Nawwab, "A Matter of Love: Muhammad Asad and Islam," in Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss): Europe's Gift to Islam, ed. M. Ikram Chaghatai (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel, 2006), 127

  5. Maryam Jameelah, Memoirs of Childhood and Youth in America (1945-1962) (Lahore: Muhammad Yusuf Khan, 1989), 109.

  6. Dr Murad Hofmann, Islam 2000 (Maryland: Amana Publications), 72

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