In Iran, the intellectual discourse is taking a new direction, noted most significantly by the fact that Mostafa Malekian, one of the highest-celebrated intellectuals in the country, is slowly gaining an intellectual following tantamount to Abdol Karim Soroush, often described as the ‘Martin Luther of Islam.’ This indicates momentum away from the primarily religious paradigm toward one concerned instead with the modern human condition.
The arrival at Cornell of three medieval cosmology scholars in the last three years has created a rare density of expertise in the topic, and they have launched a collaboration to take a closer, interdisciplinary look at complex cosmologies and the medieval reception of ancient science.
As the Islamic fasting period of Ramadan ends this week, Muslims might be curious about a modern interpretation of the Hadith – the sayings and customs of the prophet Muhammad – which is now being published in Turkey. Certainly scholars will be.
India’s literary establishment is abuzz about the recently published novel “The Mirror of Beauty,” a 984-page fictional account about the life and times of Wazir Khanam, the mother of the famed Urdu poet Daag Dehalvi, set mostly in Delhi and its environs during the 19th century. A beautiful and spirited woman, Wazir mingles with the noblemen of the Mughal court of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, the English officers of the East India Company, the poets of the age and a whole panorama of other unforgettable characters. “The Mirror of Beauty” is a translation of the original 2006 Urdu-language novel “Ka’i Chand The Sar-e-Aasmaan” by its author, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi. Mr. Faruqi, 78, who retired as a top bureaucrat in the Indian Postal Service, is a leading figure of Urdu literary criticism. He spoke to India Ink in Delhi about how he created the world of 19th century Delhi for “The Mirror of Beauty” and what he hopes young readers will get out of the book.
Akbar the Great, ruler of most of South Asia in the 16th and early 17th century, rejected bigotry and made unprecedented moves to help non-Muslims feel at peace in his Mughal empire. In reflecting more closely upon his character and conduct, we can see how Akbar’s actions are antithetical to current discrimination and violence against vulnerable religious communities around the world today, especially in Pakistan, a land he once ruled.
A new Pew Research Center survey of Muslims around the globe finds that most adherents of the world’s second-largest religion are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. In all but a handful of the 39 countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims say that Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. Many also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters. And many express a desire for sharia – traditional Islamic law – to be recognized as the official law of their country.
Read Full Report: The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society
See also: The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity
The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are united in their belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad and are bound together by such religious practices as fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and almsgiving to assist people in need. But they have widely differing views about many other aspects of their faith, including how important religion is to their lives, who counts as a Muslim and what practices are acceptable in Islam, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Read Full Report: The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity
The familiar stark divide between people of religion and without religion is too crude. Many millions of people who count themselves atheists have convictions and experiences very like and just as profound as those that believers count as religious. They say that though they do not believe in a “personal” god, they nevertheless believe in a “force” in the universe “greater than we are.” They feel an inescapable responsibility to live their lives well, with due respect for the lives of others; they take pride in a life they think well lived and suffer sometimes inconsolable regret at a life they think, in retrospect, wasted.
Read More: Religion Without God, by Ronald Dworkin
Culture constitutes an essential element of human life. As people have risen up across the Middle East and North Africa, the diversity of their cultures is not only the means but also the ultimate goal of their liberation and their freedom. Though imperialism was primarily political and economic, it was also cultural; it imposed ways of life, habits, perceptions and values that rarely respected the societies under its domination, that seized control of minds — a true colonisation of human intelligence.
This chapter [published in 2008] is concerned with the following question: what role can education for citizenship play in minimizing any possible tensions between national and religious – particularly Muslim – identities? Three nexuses of citizenship education and Muslim traditions are suggested. These include the possibility of exploring religious symbols as a source of social criticism, challenging the moralization of politics through a closer association of citizenship education and social justice and revisiting approaches to the internal diversity among Muslims. The justification for these suggestions lies in the perspective on the recent history that has led to the emergence of Islam as a political identity competing with citizenry role. It is thus important to first present this perspective before outlining the suggestions.
In this paper (published 2004), Farid Panjwani assesses the dominant discourse on Islam and education that argues for an education derived from an exclusively ‘Islamic’ vision. In addition to exploring the historical roots of this discourse, the paper analyses it with respect to its (i) arguments for an Islamic vision of education, (ii) conception of Islam, and (iii) proposals for the implementation of such a vision. The paper argues that, at all three levels, the discourse suffers from serious conceptual and empirical weaknesses. It proposes that in seeking to overcome these weaknesses, the discourse will have to reconceptualize several elements, including its conception of Islam and its approach to the history of Muslims.
Professor Sabine Schmidtke, head of the Research Unit for the Study of Intellectual History in the Islamicate World at the Freie Universität Berlin, has a passion in life: working with ancient manuscripts. In the course of her work, she discovers common threads in the thinking of Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars. Arnfrid Schenk takes a closer look at her work and its significance outside the academic world.
Apace with music and film, today’s literature has gone global, irrespective of its roots. Things are different with pre-modern texts. Ask a well-read person outside the Arab world what early Arabic works they are familiar with, and after mentioning the Quran and One Thousand and One Nights, there will be a vacant stare. The new Library of Arabic Literature, supported by the New York University Abu Dhabi Institute, aims to change that and to appeal to the serious student as well as to the “general reader”.
Read More: Classical Arabic Literature
An almost 800-year-old manuscript is shedding new light on one of the hidden jewels of Arabic literature. Orientalist and translator Claudia Ott recently identified the oldest known manuscript of “The One Hundred and One Nights”. She talked to Loay Mudhoon about it.
Read More: Interview with Claudia Ott, by Loay Mudhoon
The development of the Persian literary tradition mirrors different levels of public importance, social status, cultural reverence, and political relevance assigned to poetry. Persian poetry was established as a royal profession about a millennium ago, in various courts of Eastern Iran and Central Asia. The livelihood of court poets depended on the composition of panegyrics in praise of the monarch. In the first millennium of its existence, Persian poetry and its social place has been transformed time and again, but the legacy of poetry as a form of orality is still visible in cultural conventions and word formation.
The divorce rate among North American Muslims has risen sharply in the last 25 years. While marriage breakdown is also on the rise in some Muslim countries, for many members of the older generation divorce was unusual or even unheard of in their family. When marriages did end, the widespread social taboo associated with divorce meant that it was difficult to talk openly with one’s family and other community members about marital discord and breakdown. This taboo continues today, to some degree, in the North American Muslim community.
This lecture (delivered in 2008) will not attempt a detailed discussion of the nature of sharia, which would be far beyond my competence; my aim is only, as I have said, to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state, with a few thoughts about what might be entailed in crafting a just and constructive relationship between Islamic law and the statutory law of the United Kingdom.
In this article (published in 2007), Emma Tarlo focuses on the dress of three prominent Muslim women who have made a signiﬁcant mark in British public life: the textile artist Rezia Wahid, the stand-up comedienne Shazia Mirza, and the councilor and advisor on Muslim affairs Humera Khan. It focuses, in particular, on their sartorial biographies, tracing the processes, experiences, and reasoning behind their clothing choices. Whilst the wearing of dress that is visibly identiﬁable as Islamic is often interpreted as a sign of narrow conservatism or political activism, the biographies of these three women suggest something very different. Their sartorial choices and stylistic innovations are the creative products of cosmopolitan lifestyles and attitudes in which concerns about fashion, religion, politics, and aesthetics are interwoven in interesting ways. The article suggests that a focus on sartorial biography enables a shift away from a whole series of conventional dichotomies: religious/secular, traditional/modern, Eastern/Western, Islam/West, towards a broader understanding of the wide range of experiences and concerns that inform the clothing choices of contemporary British Muslim women. Finally, it is suggested that the proliferation of religiously oriented fashions amongst Muslims in Western metropolitan cities is not necessarily a sign of narrow conservatism. It may also signal the emergence of new forms of Islamic cosmopolitanism.
Read More: Islamic Cosmopolitanism, by Emma Tarlo
Being gay in a heteronormative world can be difficult and stressful, but for Muslims who identify as gay, life can be particularly problematic. This is due primarily to negative social representations of homosexuality within Islam. In this article (published in 2010), Rusi Jaspal elucidates some of the socio-psychological challenges which may be experienced by British Muslim gay men through a brief discussion of the relevant literature in this area. It is argued that psychologists ought to engage with these issues to complement ongoing work within sociology, and that studying the interface of sexuality and religion has important implications for policy and practice, particularly within counselling psychology.
The present discussion arose from the work on the Tehran Congress Report (Khalili, Murken, Reich, Shah, & Vahabzadeh). Knowledge of that report is helpful for better understanding this exchange between the present two authors (Sebastian Murken and Ashiq Ali Shah), especially Shah’s exposition of Islamic psychology and psychotherapy. This article (published in 2002) aims at presenting the two approaches, their commonalities and differences,and above all, the possibilities for collaboration despite these differences. The discussion begins with a long initial statement by each author. These are followed by a section that presents the remarks of both authors, formulated and interspersed after taking into account the responses of each author to the initial exchanges.
In this paper (published in 2008), Jasmin Zine explores the ways in which Muslim girls construct notions of gender and religious identity within and against the dominant patriarchal discourses promoted in Islamic schools. At the same time, the investigation locates the negotiation of school-based socialization within a larger context of Islamophobia in Canada. As such, the analysis provides an ethnographic analysis of Islamic schools as sites for the construction of gendered Islamic identities and sensibilities.
When Dick Davis, the preeminent translator of Persian poetry of our time, was a boy in Portsmouth, England, in the 1950s, he found on his parents’ bookshelf a copy of Edward FitzGerald’s swooning Victorian translations of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Its presence was not so unusual, as those verses (“A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou”) had set off a minor craze. If an English middle-class family owned just three books, along with the Bible and Shakespeare would be FitzGerald. “It was a kind of universal badge of culture,” Davis jokes. Yet he absorbed so much of what he later described as “the candied death-wish of FitzGerald” that he knew most by heart. Instead of anxiety of influence, he experienced an opiated hit of influence.
Read More: Whispers of Love
The veiling of Muslim women is subject to strongly contested ideas about whether the veil is a symbol of women’s subordination to an oppressive tradition or a means of emancipation from that tradition. This article (published in 2006) suggests that women’s own personal reasons for veiling must be analysed. Data collected from published documents from Muslim organizations allows for demonstration that the veil is conﬁgured as central to an Islamic moral code of female modesty. A further analysis of ﬁndings from interviews conducted with veiled Muslim women in Winnipeg shows the nuanced ways in which women enact this code.
By writing historical novels, Jurji Zaidan wanted to provide the common Arabic people with an accurate sense of their own history in an accessible, entertaining way. His novels were unavailable in English for nearly a century. But now, in the last two years, six English translations have appeared.
From the mid-1980s to the present, civil society has been a key category of democratic politics, increasingly in a genuinely international setting. Its still undiminished importance is a product of learning experiences first and foremost within the tradition of left politics and social movements, one that certainly involved an opening to liberal democratic and sometimes classical conservative concepts. As all really important political terms, civil society is a highly contested one. There are today many versions, liberal, radical democratic, communitarian and even neo-liberal variants, staunchly secular and “accomodationst” versions along with different ways of drawing on alternative national and religious traditions. But all versions, with the exception of extreme libertarianism and authoritarian communitarianism do have an essential assumption in common. They break with a political theology based on the revolutionary, or populist reoccupation of the symbolic center of society, whether by the state, a party or a movement, as well as the rejection of a Freund-Feind definition of the political that would entail dealing with internal opponents as enemies.
Read More: Civil Society, by Andrew Arato
Studies of civil society currently constitute one of the liveliest trends in Islamic studies, especially in the context of the Arab World. These works respond to an intense demand among educated publics and academic circles for any exploration of the democratizing potential of Islam; they also explore the very notion of civil society as a conceptual category.
A central part of modern secularization has been the de-theologization of the stories of religious origins. Islam is no different, even though this de-theologization tends to be obscured by contemporary fundamentalism. In Islam, the story of origins centers on Mecca, Medina, the prophet Muhammad, the early Muslim community, and the expansion out of Arabia. A few scholars at the end of the nineteenth century and many at the end of the twentieth century raised the question of whether this story should be considered a theology – that is, an apologia or justiﬁcation – of origins rather than a history as traditionally understood. In this article (published in 2003), Peter von Sivers provides a survey of the Islamic origins literature produced by Middle East scholars in the last century.
As in Europe, Islamic studies in the U.S. originated in the tradition of Orientalist scholarship and Christian theology, with its strong textual emphasis, but it has gradually expanded to overlap with Middle East area studies as well as a number of humanistic and social science disciplines, especially religious studies. Over the past several decades, and especially since 9/11, scholarly interest in Islamic studies has mushroomed. This interest is visible in the number of doctoral dissertations produced on Islam and Muslims over the past half-century. As a percentage of all dissertations in the Proquest Dissertations and Theses Database, Islamic studies themes grew from less than one percent prior to the late 1970s to three percent in the 1980s and 1990s, to over four percent since 2001.
This is a particularly difficult period for Americans, as we struggle with internal economic and fiscal challenges even as we continue to take stock of our place in the post-9/11 world. But take stock we must. And as we do so, one of the most elusive challenges that we face is coming to terms with the cultural dimension of our encounter with the Muslim world. Even now, as we skirmish over issues such as abortion and gay marriage here at home, Americans fail to appreciate how our cultural values affect our relations with Muslims around the globe – and with the Muslims in our midst, many of whom are fellow citizens. This is in part because cultural forces are downplayed or ignored as relevant concerns by our intellectual and foreign policy elites. This neglect is regrettable, for while there are some aspects of American culture that Muslims find problematic or repellant, there are others that they find – or might find, if made aware – appealing, even admirable. Our unwillingness or inability to address any of these cultural phenomena renders America all the more ineffective at addressing the Muslim world. In this essay (published in 2011), Peter Skerry aims to begin righting this imbalance by exploring some cultural differences – as well as some similarities – between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The utilitarian construct of two alternative criteria of human death increases the supply of transplantable organs at the end of life. Neither the neurological criterion (heart-beating donation) nor the circulatory criterion (non-heart-beating donation) is grounded in scientific evidence but based on philosophical reasoning. A utilitarian death definition can have unintended consequences for dying Muslim patients.
In January 1985, about 80 Muslim religious scholars and biomedical scientists gathered in a symposium held in Kuwait to discuss the broad question “When does human life begin?” This article (published in 2012) argues that this symposium is one of the milestones in the ﬁeld of contemporary Islamic bioethics and independent legal reasoning (Ijtihad). The proceedings of the symposium, however, escaped the attention of academic researchers. This article is meant to ﬁll in this research lacuna by analyzing the proceedings of this symposium, the relevant subsequent developments, and ﬁnally the interplay of Islam and the West as a signiﬁcant dimension in these discussions.
Advances in knowledge about human biological processes bring into question whether either brain (heart-beating) or circulatory (non-heartbeating) criteria of death ensure that donors are really dead before organ procurement. The utility of conflating the “prognosis” (incipiently dying or destined to die) with the “diagnosis” of death (really dead) to justify organ donation has been morally defended in both the medical and the ethics literature. Major religions emphasize the sanctity of human life but permit organ donation if it is performed after death. Thus, the moral justification of end-of-life practices in organ donation poses serious ethical and religious challenges. Legislation has been introduced in several countries, including the United States, to permit the administration of life support systems for organ preservation without prior consent for organ donation. Such administration of life support systems for organ preservation interrupts traditional Islamic practices about the care of the dying and the deceased.
In this paper (published in 2012), Mohammed Ghaly analyzes the religio-ethical discussions of Muslim religious scholars, which took place in Europe specifically in the UK and the Netherlands, on organ donation. After introductory notes on fatwas (Islamic religious guidelines) relevant to biomedical ethics and the socio-political context in which discussions on organ donation took place, the article studies three specific fatwas issued in Europe whose analysis has escaped the attention of modern academic researchers. In 2000 the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) issued a fatwa on organ donation. Besides this “European” fatwa, two other fatwas were issued respectively in the UK by the Muslim Law (Shariah) Council in 1995 and in the Netherlands by the Moroccan religious scholar Muṣṭafa Ben Ḥamza during a conference on “Islam and Organ Donation” held in March 2006. The three fatwas show that a great number of Muslim religious scholars permit organ donation and this holds true for donating organs to non-Muslims as well. Further, they demonstrate that transnationalism is one of the main characteristics of contemporary Islamic bioethics. In a bid to develop their own standpoints towards organ donation, Muslims living in the West rely heavily on fatwas imported from the Muslim world.
The “four principles approach” has been popularly accepted as a set of universal guidelines for biomedical ethics. Based on four allegedly trans-cultural principles (respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence and justice), it is supposed to fulfil the need of a ‘culturally neutral approach to thinking about ethical issues in health care’. On the basis of a case-history, this paper (published in 2009) challenges the appropriateness of communicating in terms of these four principles with patients with a different background. The case describes the situation in which Muslim parents bring forward that their religion keeps them from consenting to end-of-life decisions by non-religious paediatricians. In a literature analysis, the different meanings and roles of the relevant principles in non-religious and Islamic ethics are compared. In non-religious ethics, the principle of nonmaleficence may be used to justify withholding or withdrawing futile or damaging treatments, whereas Islamic ethics applies this principle to forbid all actions that may harm life. And while the non-religious version of the principle of respect for autonomy emphasises the need for informed consent, the Islamic version focuses on “respect for the patient”.
Medical anthropological research on science, biotechnology, and religion has focused on the “local moral worlds” of men and women as they make difficult decisions regarding their health and the beginnings and endings of human life. In this paper (published in 2006), Marcia Inhorn focuses on the local moral worlds of infertile Muslims as they attempt to make, in the religiously correct fashion, Muslim babies at in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics in Egypt and Lebanon. As early as 1980, authoritative fatwas issued from Egypt’s famed Al-Azhar University suggested that IVF and similar technologies are permissible as long as they do not involve any form of third-party donation (of sperm, eggs, embryos, or uteruses). Since the late 1990s, however, divergences in opinion over third-party gamete donation have occurred between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, with Iran’s leading ayatollah permitting gamete donation under certain conditions. This Iranian fatwa has had profound implications for the country of Lebanon, where a Shi’ite majority also seeks IVF services. Based on three periods of ethnographic research in Egyptian and Lebanese IVF clinics, this paper explores official and unofficial religious discourses surrounding the practice of IVF and third-party donation in the Muslim world, as well as the gender implications of gamete donation for Muslim marriages.
Read More: Making Muslim Babies, by Marcia Inhorn
Islam’s rapid rise within indigenous communities in the eastern and northern regions of premodern Bengal engendered extraordinary cultural and religious change from around the early Mughal period. Among the signiﬁcant markers available to us of this change is a large and little-studied corpus of Islamic literature in Bengali. Spanning from sacred biography to Suﬁ romances and practice manuals, this literature testiﬁes to the articulation of a regional Islam among newly Islamized communities. As many as twenty of the extant texts – only about half of which have been published, and none of which appear likely to predate the sixteenth century – concern matters of Suﬁ doctrine and practice. One of the most consistent concerns of this genre is the explication of Islamized forms of Tantric yoga.
The subject of this paper (published in 2009) is a traditional visit to the graves of Sufi saints, the ziyarat, at a particular shrine in contemporary Hyderabad. One aim is to highlight, through a symbolic analysis, the peculiarities of this type of sacred journey. Another aim is to discuss the symbolic transformations that pilgrims undergo in the pilgrimage process. The paper concludes that the ziyarat can be viewed as a journey, undertaken by a person in quest of a place that embodies a valued ideal, from an imperfect and mundane environment to a perfect one. Ritual hints at the superiority of the moral universe embodied by the saint over the system that rules secular society, through the softening of social divisions among participants, and through emphasis on status differences in the internal hierarchy of the shrine.
The North Caucasus is typically mentioned as a major hotbed of Islamic radicalism in Russia. The religious and political situations in other Russian regions, however, have traditionally been relatively stable, so little consideration has been given to Islam’s impact on those areas. But the situation has changed recently in southern Russia, the Urals, Siberia, and the metropolitan Moscow area. This shift poses real problems for the Russian state.
Read More: The Dynamics of Russian Islam
Is same-sex marriage in Islam possible? Among conservative scholars in the Islamic religious intelligentsia worldwide, there is a general reluctance to consider and integrate progressive conceptions of marriage (and divorce). In particular, conservative scholars are reluctant to embrace several progressive policies: nofault divorce for women; the abolition of “the house of obedience,” which requires the female spouse to obey her husband; the use of the doctrine of the “best interests” of the child in determining custodial matters; and, of course, the extension of marriage to same-sex couples.
Scholars in the contemporary period have not lived up to the standards and frankness of pre-modern Islamic scholars, and much work has yet to be done on the question of sexuality in Islamic scripture, law, and society. Many scholars and Islamic leaders in the present shy away from honest discussions of sex and sexuality, with all its promise and problems. Muslims in pre-modern times certainly were not shy about discussing matters of sex, so why should we be prudish?
Just as complex discourses have developed around the metaphor of ‘the closet’ and ‘coming out of the closet’, the metaphor of ‘the veil’ and the concept of ‘lifting the veil’ have developed their own political debates. Locating itself in the borderland of queer theory, cultural studies and Islamic studies, this paper (published in 2007) engages with the metaphors of the closet and the veil in an exploration of the construction, policing and subversion of sexualised, queered space in the context of Islam. Using the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Steven Seidman, Michel Foucault, Fatema Mernissi and, above all, Henri Lefebvre, this paper suggests similar spatial logic informs the regime of the closet and the regime of the veil. Equally, it is argued that the veil also exists within a series of interlinked and intertextual heterotopias in Islamic spatial production and as such, has the subversive and critical potential of escaping the disconnected space of capitalism.
Read More: The Veil and the Closet, by Ibrahim Abraham
In this paper (published in 2012), Scott Kugle and Stephen Hunt analyse how Islamic neo-traditionalists perceive gender constructs through a distorted view of religious texts and cultural conventions. It explores the ramifications of these constructs for attitudes towards same-sex orientations and relationships. These themes are discussed with reference to a case study of a TV talk show on 5 June 2006 by one conservative scholar-activist, Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose teachings have an impact in the Middle-East and on Muslim minorities in the West. The paper will demonstrate how al-Qaradawi articulates his views of homophobia as part of an agenda to reinforce perceived threats to Muslim masculinity.
Throughout the world, Muslims explore ways to be gay and still be part of the Muslim community. Although prohibitive Islamic attitudes towards homosexuality may seem to make this difficult, these are not shared by all Muslims. There is also a counter-culture of Muslim queerness that demonstrates that not all religious scholars were necessarily against homosexuality. In this article (published in 2008), Samar Habib discusses understandings of Islam that accommodate homosexual relationships.
Secular bioethics has only recently begun to take religious perspectives seriously. Religion and Medicine courses in a number of universities across North America have incorporated Christian and Jewish perspectives for some time now, but Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu perspectives are only now gaining recognition. This late inclusion of Islamic perspectives can be partially attributed to the lack of materials in English on Islamic bioethics. Moreover, those materials that have been published actually deal with juridical-religious opinions rather than ethical deliberations based on principles and rules as developed in Islamic legal sciences. Here and there in these writings one reads references to the principle of “public interest” (maslaha), without any elucidation about its function, either as a principle in legal theory or as a rule of utility or beneficence that promotes the good in ethical decision-making. Instead, we have a plethora of juridical opinions (fatawa, plural of fatwa) deduced from the revealed texts on issues in biomedicine like abortion, end of life decisions, and more recently, genetic engineering or stem cell research, without any ethical discussion on the rightness or wrongness of the act in its medical scientific and clinical practical settings.
In this paper (published in 2005), Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina discusses the underlying principles and the rules of practical ethical guidance in Islamic tradition in the context of end-of-life decisions, and addresses the conceptual difﬁculties faced by Muslim jurists in suggesting a moral action under the sacred law of Islam (the Shari’ah).
Recent advances in the ﬁeld of cloning and stem cell research have introduced new hope for treatment of serious diseases. But this promise has been accompanied by enormous questions. Currently, cloning is a matter of public discussion. It is rare that a ﬁeld of science causes debate and challenge not only among scientists but also among ethicists, religious scholars, governments, and politicians. One important concern is religious arguments. Various religions have different attitudes toward the morality of these subjects; even within a particular religious tradition there is a diversity of opinions. In this article (published in 2004), Larijani and Zahedi brieﬂy review Islamic perspectives about reproductive/therapeutic cloning and stem cell research. The majority of Muslim jurists distinguish between reproductive and therapeutic cloning. The moral status of the human embryo, the most sensitive and disputed point in this debate, is also discussed according to Holy Quran teachings.
In the wake of the February 1997 announcement that Dolly the sheep had been cloned, Muslim religious scholars together with Muslim scientists held two conferences to discuss cloning from an Islamic perspective. They were organized by two influential Islamic international religio-scientific institutions: the Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences (IOMS) and the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA). Both institutions comprise a large number of prominent religious scholars and well-known scientists who participated in the discussions at the conferences. In this article (published in 2010), Mohammed Ghaly gives a comprehensive analysis of these conferences, the relation between science and religion as reflected in the discussions there, and the further influence of these discussions on Muslims living in the West.
The debates about the pros and cons of cloning in the media are usually dominated by views of the Christian churches, philosophers, and lobbyists. Yet the issues raised by cloning are, for several reasons, affecting mankind in general and therefore cannot be solved by representatives and opinion leaders predominantly from the so-called ‘West’ only. Among these reasons is the fundamental question of whether our concepts of ‘man’, ‘personhood’, and consequently ‘mankind’ have to be reformulated in the light of recent scientific progress. It is obvious that a final, universally acceptable answer to this question cannot be arrived at if representatives of religions such as Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism are not included in this debate.
Read More: Muslim Voices on Cloning, by Thomas Eich
The ‘Islam and secularism’ debate began a century ago and does not seem to have progressed. Prevailing attitudes, both ‘pro’ and ‘con’, are apparently locked in a stalemate and an endless ‘war of positions’. Why are the actors of different trends restating more or less the same formulations on this issue? Is it possible to find a likely interpretation for such a phenomenon?
Abdolkarim Soroush is one of the most influential religious thinkers to emerge from post-revolutionary Iran. He is an influential proponent of kalam-e no or ‘new theology’, which explores new ways of secularism beyond the politicized and revolutionary forms of religion that marked the Islamic Revolution. In 2007, Michiel Leezenberg talked with him about the philosophical origins and dimensions of modernity in the Islamic world.
Read More: An Interview with Abdolkarim Soroush