Invocations of early Islam in US discourse(s) of Muslim pluralism

Authored by: Justine Howe

Routledge Handbook on Early Islam

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138821187
eBook ISBN: 9781315743462
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315743462.ch22

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Abstract

As an ethnographer of American Islam, I have been struck by the similar ways in which many of my colleagues and many of my field subjects have invoked narratives of early Islam to adjudicate debates about Muslim religious pluralism. This chapter analyzes invocations of early Islamic history among three overlapping fields of American intellectuals: (1) university historians of early Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim; (2) Muslim theologians who also hold academic appointments; and (3) American Muslim public intellectuals. Through their shared interest in religious pluralism, many scholars in these intersecting fields have sought to demonstrate, to different degrees and to different ends, that Islam has embraced a religiously pluralistic worldview from its inception. Within this discourse, the Qurʾān is invoked above other historical sources, often to justify an ecumenism within which Muslims (past and present) embrace the other Abrahamic faiths as valid, if not equally salvific, paths to God.

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