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Articles - 2017

In Search of a Leader

Authority – not to be confused with power – is an anthropological constant and no culture, to the extent that it is also tradition, can do without it

20/09/2017 | Martino Diez | Religions and the public sphere

The Qur’an as a Political Programme

The Islamists claim to be restoring the thinking and practices of the first Islamic communities. They appropriate the sacred texts in order to construct their own concept of a theo-democratic government founded on the notion of divine sovereignty. Such a notion would purportedly date back to Islam’s formative period. In this way, the various (and, principally, a-political) interpretations that can be found in the oldest sources are ignored

20/09/2017 | Asma Afsaruddin | The Peoples of Islam

How the Shi‘ite Clergy Entered Politics

Born as a revolutionary movement, Shi‘ite Islam saw the role of the ulama grow constantly and uninterruptedly during the course of its history until a genuine hierarchy, dominated by the authority of the marja‘iyya, was created from the nineteenth century onward. After the Khomeinist revolution, this institution entered into competition with the office of the Supreme Iranian Leader and is, today, at a crossroads: will the Āyatollah al-Sīstānī be its last great exponent in Iraq?

20/09/2017 | Rainer Brunner | The Peoples of Islam

The Sufis’ Soft Power

Friendship with God is the source of authority. In Sufism, it is the Almighty who chooses whom to honour, elect, sanctify and bless with the knowledge and spiritual powers that will make him a guide in his domain. In mystical texts, this holiness is likened to the trunk of a tree with many branches. Each branch produces a force that is transformed into a real form of leadership capable of shaping the culture of the society of the day

20/09/2017 | Souad al-Hakim | The Peoples of Islam

Fatwas as a Weapon against Fanaticism

It is in states’ interests to have strong religious institutions capable of carrying out a profound reform and generating a new discourse on faith

20/09/2017 | Ridwan Al-Sayyid | Islamic Thinkers

Does al-Azhar Speak for All Sunnis?

The Egyptian mosque-university is often called “Islam’s Vatican”. This ancient institution is certainly one of the most prestigious centres of Muslim learning in the world but to accord it primacy in religious interpretation means not to understand the nature of authority in Sunni Islam. If it cannot claim that absolute leadership that the West attributes to it, today it nevertheless aspires to lead Islam’s renewal

20/09/2017 | Michele Brignone | The Peoples of Islam

The Unpublished Text on Islam’s Reform

An Egyptian intellectual has prepared a document for al-Azhar on the renewal of religious discourse, a highly debated subject in Egypt. The text tackles sensitive issues and, partly for this reason, has not been made public

20/09/2017 | Salah Fadl | Religions and the public sphere

Saudi Ulama, Guardians of Change

The theologian Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb guaranteed the Saudi rulers their religious legitimacy. The sovereigns, in their turn, granted the cleric and his followers a monopoly on Islam’s interpretation. Exported throughout the world thanks to the kingdom’s huge resources, even this controversial, ultra-conservative doctrine has had to cope with the modernization that has thrown the founding pact into crisis and generated conflict within the religious establishment

20/09/2017 | Raihan Ismail | Religions and the public sphere

Muslim Authority meets Europe. And Changes

The state of Islamic leadership on the Continent has been described as a “deafening cacophony of voices.” For decades, the various countries’ institutions have been struggling to find interlocutors from amongst an ever-increasing number of organized mosques, religious associations and imams who are either self-taught or tied to foreign nations. Whilst the European authorities find the top-level fragmentation problematic, it is nevertheless a resource for its actors

20/09/2017 | Abdessamad Belhaj | Religions and the public sphere

The Twelve “Keepers” of the Qur’an

The Qur’an needs a "Keeper" as sensory organs need a heart

20/09/2017 | Martino Diez | Arabo-Islamic Classics

The Imam as Divine Proof

In the most important collection of Shi‘ite hadīths, the imams’ pivotal role emerges already from the choice to report not only the traditions ascribed to Muhammad, but also those attributed to his successors. Not a few of these sayings concern the need for an infallible guide inspired by God. This cannot consist solely in the Qur’an, the object of divergent and conflicting interpretations: a “keeper” is needed, just as sense organs need a heart.

20/09/2017 | Passages from al-Kulaynī | Arabo-Islamic Classics

Theology-Fiction: Prophesying the Umma to Come

Into the crisis of authority in contemporary Sunni Islam

20/09/2017 | Martino Diez | Arabo-Islamic Classics

The Erosion of Sharia

Al-Juwaynī imagines an Islamic world that no longer has either a caliph or the unitary government of an “imam of usurpation” or a sultan. Independent jurists capable of deriving new rules have died out and within Islamic Law it is mainly the worship-related precepts and family-law rules that remains alive. The alternatives are clear: either try to revive the independent jurists or recognize the autonomy of worldly realities.

20/09/2017 | Passages by al-Juwaynī | Arabo-Islamic Classics

“Unmasking the Peddlers of Illusions about the Afterlife”

Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Pope Francis to Egypt, an Anthology

20/09/2017 | Pope Francis | Magisterium

Wanted: a German Islam

There is a debate in various European countries about the need to train religious experts locally in order to avoid foreign interference and the influence of do-it-yourself preachers. The spread of ideas opposing the integration of Muslim communities and the growing force of radical ideologies are both giving cause for concern. To prevent all this, Germany has come up with the idea of creating centres of Islamic Theology. We visited them

20/09/2017 | Rolla Scolari | Religions and the public sphere

Is it all Wahhabism’s Fault?

An Anglo-Tunisian intellectual identifies the origins of jihadism in the official doctrine of Saudi Arabia, and invites Islamist movements to free themselves from its influence

08/09/2017 | Michele Brignone | The Peoples of Islam

Christians Caught in the Middle Between Turkey and Syria

In Mardin, among refugees and jihadi smuggling routes, Syriacs wait for Ankara to return their confiscated property

07/09/2017 | Davide Lerner | Eastern Christians

Why the Battle of Marawi is Important

From the outcome of the siege of the city we will understand which form Isis will take in Southeast Asia and beyond

07/09/2017 | Sebastiano D’Ambra | Jihadism and violence

Islam and the West in Europe: Encounter or Clash?

The growing presence of Muslims in Europe raises the question of compatibility between different views in the public sphere

07/09/2017 | Javier Maria Prades López | Religions and the public sphere

The Verses of the Princes of Poets

Love, eternity and the power of poetry are some of the themes recited by the contestants of a successful talent show

31/08/2017 | Oasis | The Peoples of Islam
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