Book Summary: The Islam Images in the Modern World
The book covers the issue of the Islam images in the modern world. It is an attempt to provide a clear analysis of the contemporary issues and religious tradition of Islam. The greatest issue of today is to humanize Muslims in the eyes of non-Muslim representatives. The book aims at raising the awareness of Islam in terms of religion. It is essential to understand this religion in order to either criticize or percept it.
The first chapter is dedicated to the image of Islam in the West. An emphasis is made on the contemporary understanding of the religion, the history of anti-Islamic attitudes (from medieval times till present), and different prejudice associated with its representatives. This part is a profound overview of the religion as a part of the modern world. The author states that in terms of economic, political, cultural, and military life, most Muslim countries have been closely tied to the USA and Europe. However, the Internet, multinational corporations, international financial networks, and media conglomerates have contributed to the isolation of one culture from the rest. There are more than five million American Muslims and ten million European Muslims, and it is impossible to neglect this number. The chapter questions the oppositions of the Muslim world and the West. Also, it provides a short overview of the Islam origin. The term was first introduced into European languages in the nineteenth century. The author suggests that the concept of Islam is a product of the European colonialism. Today, it is the only religion that has such a negative image in the eyes of the Western world. In most cases, Christian attitudes toward the religion of Islam have always been negative. During the medieval period, Christian authors reversed all characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, they turned them into defects. According to the traditional doctrine, Muhammad was illiterate, and this fact was an indication that he was a fraud. In addition, Christians mostly criticized the military activities and multiple marriages of the Prophet.
The Crusades are considered the main political context for anti-Muslim writings that were popular among European Christians in the Middle Ages. It is difficult to find positive images of Islam in both American and European cultures. Undoubtedly, there is much evidence of fantasy in the anti-Islamic stereotype history. There is a popular idea that Muslims are violent and have dysfunctional female roles. Today, the religion of Islam is a subject that has only negative associations, stereotypes, and images among many Americans and Europeans. Nevertheless, the author claims that not all Muslims are the same. It is evident that some of them become affected by a number of life factors, including economic conditions, gender, location, history, language, political power, and others.
The chapter concludes that the negatives images that are associated with Islam are deeply embedded in the self-image of the American and European societies. Islamophobia is considered a form of religious and racial prejudice. Essential political reasons stand behind the stereotypes. Therefore, there is a need to question contemporary material that provides this extraordinarily strong bias related to anti-Islamism.
The second chapter discusses Islam as religion. It focuses on Islam, the historical study, the modern concept, the language, and the definition of the religion by the numbers and the state. The author characterized changes that have occurred to the term religion from the time of early Christianity to the early colonial era. This part provides one with a clear understanding of Islam considerations by scholars. Also, it provides the definition of the government bureaucrats and the state, as well as their conceptualization of the term.
The chapter provides an overview of the word religion and defines its purpose. Ernst states that the word is not mentioned in the Bible and originates from a pre-Christian Latin term that was adopted by European Christians. It isdifficult to find any equivalent in classical languages of Christianity that may be used instead of religion. Hence, the chapter discusses the history of this term, as well as indicates its transformations and changes. It is emphasized that the work of Grotius gives rise to the idea of religion. The modern colonial era set the debate about religion that continues to modern days. However, the contemporary concept of religion greatly impacts the concept of Islam due to the response of theorists of the modern Islamic state to the European colonialism.
The chapter discusses different attempts to come up with classification systems of religion, as well. Although religions have the same basic features, including theology, scripture, ritual, and others, the content is different. Therefore, it is difficult to draw clear analogies and make categorization. The author speaks about the need to differentiate between external and internal aspects of religion, prescriptive and descriptive approaches, cumulative traditions and religious experience. The society faces problems while evaluating someone’s adherence to a particular religion. Therefore, the definition of religious identity is not the problem of theorists only. The author provides illustrations of the possible disconnect between religious identity and religious belief and make the reader aware of the statistics, reasons, and census figures on the issue. Every fourth or fifth person in the world is Muslim (including sectarian divisions). The largest population of Muslims in Europe is concentrated in France, Germany, and England. There is an idea that the constantly increasing immigration and demographic patterns can lead to the substantial expansions of the Muslim population not only in Europe but also in the USA.
Finally, Ernst comes to the conclusion that the Islamic tradition is poorly understood in most European countries and the USA. This fact causes the need to establish some basic terms that can describe the word religion. Moreover, the author speaks about the Arabic term Islam on the basis of the Qur’an. He uses the word to refer to orientation, in which the primary focus is made on the Qur’an, and the leading model of a person is the Prophet Muhammad. There is no attempt to summarize different viewpoints developed in the Islamic history. However, the author suggests the importance of calling the attention to a series of dramatic new developments that occurred more than a century ago in Muslim countries. Fundamentalism is one of the most notorious cases of a Christian category that has been imposed upon Islam.
The third chapter covers the issue of the sacred sources of Islam. It discusses the life of the Prophet Muhammad and overviews the content and structure of the Qur’an. The author focuses on the role of the Prophet Muhammad in the consciousness of Islamic religion. Also, the chapter enables to reconsider the main international debates related to the Qur’an, as well as recent journalistic and fictional writings.
Ernst discusses the significance of Muhammad for Muslims. The chapter makes the reader aware of the major events in the life of the Prophet, which are recalled in the special Muslim calendar. Also, it outlines the role of Muhammad, his life aspects, political activities, family life, activities in terms of languages, cultures, children, and others. The author states that it might be difficult to read the Qur’an due to its composition that is completely different from the New Treatment or the Hebrew Bible. He thoroughly describes the structure of the book that is divided into 114 suras (sections). Each sura contains avas (verses). Therefore, the Qur’an contains a few extended narrative passages. The chapter makes an attempt to address the controversy that is related to the book and deal with the main misunderstandings that are associated with the primacy of the original Arabic text.
The fourth chapter discusses the ethics and life in the world. The author makes an emphasis on the Greek philosophyy as a source of ethics, Islamic religious ethics, Islamic state, liberal Islam, and Islamic ethics in the colonial age, as well as provides examples of the modern state and Islam in practice. The chapter begins with the ethics concept of the Islamic religion from both philosophical inquiry and authoritative texts. The author demonstrates the influential role of Greek philosophical ethics in the thought of Islam. Moreover, he speaks about the changes in the ethical thinking during the European colonial domination. The chapter concludes with the analysis of the major religious ethics problems, such as liberal Islamic thought, the Islamic State concept, gender issues, the relationship between Islam and science, as well as the question of veiling.
The author suggests that the Qur’an is one of the most highly revered sources of the correct behavior norms. The covenant established between humanity and God enables to trace the ethical obligation foundation in the sacred book. The chapter contains examples of the Islamic text functioning. An emphasis is made on the concept of civilizational and its decline, as well as the original and provocative philosophical thinkers not only in most Muslim countries but also in other parts of Africa and Asia. Defining the word civilization only in terms of Americans and Europeans relegates barbarism.
According to Ernst, the age of the European colonial rule was a watershed period in the history of Muslims. One of its effects was the suspension of local legal systems and the conqueror law imposition. Also, colonialism resulted in the overthrow of local elites, the consequent impoverishment of traditional philanthropy, and the dismantling of existing patronage networks. After the British suppressed an Indian revolt in 1857, there was a period of great changes in the Muslim education. The establishment of the Islamic State became a central issue in defining the Muslim identity.
The chapter discusses Deoband as one of the Islamic movements that gave rise during modern times, as well. It was framed by the twin European colonialism experiences. The author provides an insight into the influence of colonialism on the Islamic political thought, focusing on the political character of four Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iran. Nowadays, reformist Islam takes a dominant position in modern Muslim thinking on politics and ethics. Nevertheless, many people find it difficult to separate modern Islam from colonialism.
The author raises the female problems and challenges in different Muslim societies. The Muslim female critique is a significant element of the colonialism justification. Americans and Europeans should not treat them with condescension that is resented by a great number of Muslim women who seek their Muslim identity. It has been emphasized that females in Muslim societies can access social networks that are created for them. Also, there are local traditions of the female religious practice.
The chapter concludes that the Islamic civilization is considered home to a variety of traditions that include both human reasoning and divine revelation. It has been clearly represented in the disciplines related to the Greek philosophy. The classical Arabic authors tend to classify all subjects into two categories, namely the rational sciences and the traditional sciences. The author discusses them and makes judgments concerning their content. It has been stated that some scientists and theologians treat science as an authoritative social control system. However, constant research and new discoveries in the sphere of medicine and life sciences raise troubling ethical issues, and no religion can provide answers to them.
In such a manner, the first four chapters provide a detailed overview of Islam and its perception in the West. Also, they cover some issues related to the acceptance of Muslims and their religion. The author focuses on the historical background of Islam and speaks about the essential role of ethics in the world.