Books and Documents

Books and Documents (17 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Falsity of the Thesis ‘Clash of Civilizations’ That Insists, Muslims and Others Simply Cannot Live Together In Peace and Harmony

By Roshan Shah, New Age Islam

17 March 2017

If the Ocean Were Ink—An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran

Author: Carla Power

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., New York

Year: 2015

Pages: 326

Price: $19


There is probably no more effective way to demolish walls and build bridges between people than close personal friendships, as this wonderful book poignantly illustrates. It is the story of what many might think to be a very unlikely friendship, between an American woman writer (Jewish on her mother’s side, Quaker on her father’s, and who identifies herself as a ‘secular feminist’) and a traditional male Muslim Islamic scholar of Indian origin, as narrated by the former.

Power, who writes for the Time magazine and was correspondent for Newsweek, was introduced to Islam and Muslims as a child, when her father took up a job in Egypt. She renewed her interest in the subject after 9/11, in the face of shrill rhetoric about the alleged ‘clash of civilisations’ and the wars that ensued. She began to study the Quran, reflecting on the diverse ways in which Muslims interpret it and the different political stances that flow from these interpretations. In this journey, she turned for assistance to her friend of many years, Muhammad Akram Nadwi, a traditional Sunni Muslim Alim or scholar, who had trained at one of India’s most well-known Islamic seminaries, the Nadwat ul-Ulema, in Lucknow, and later joined the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, in the UK, where Power, too, worked. At that time (this was in the 1990s), Nadwi was engaged in a project that would win him wide acclaim—a collection of biographies of  Muslim women religious scholars, bringing to light a little-known history of Muslim women as religious authorities.

When they first met, Power, as she puts it, was “a miniskirted twenty-four-year-old, unsure of herself except for her own importance.” Nadwi was just a few years older than her. The two worked together on a study on Islam in South Asia at Oxford, and soon, despite their differences of background and belief, they discovered considerable common ground—“in the commonplace”, as Power puts it, even in such things as “sipping tea, grumbling about our boss and sodden English winters”.

Over time, Power and Nadwi grew from being colleagues into friends as they grew to realise how misleading generalisations about entire communities can be and how dangerous the rhetoric of elements bent on fuelling conflict between communities (Power specifically refers here to Muslim extremists and American neocons) is.  Their friendship, as Power beautifully portrays it, exposed the complete falsity of the ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis that insists that Muslims and others simply cannot live together in peace and harmony.

Power went on to spend around a year studying the Quran with Nadwi, attending some of his lectures and having occasional lessons with him. She wanted to learn how the Quran shaped Muslim worldviews and discern where Western and Muslim worldviews overlapped and where they did not. Over that year, Power did scores of interviews with Nadwi and dropped in at his home numerous times, meeting his wife and children, too. She even travelled with him to India, where she visited his ancestral village and the madrasa where he had studied.

“We made an odd little caravan, the Sheikh [Nadwi] and I, a pious believer and a sceptical secularist”, Power narrates. Her year of study helped Power appreciate ample goodness in Nadwi, as well as in the faith that he sought to follow, which was the source of his virtues. She talks of Nadwi’s “humane and educated manner” and notes that he “enjoyed the peace of a man who observed his duty as a Muslim: being a ‘slave of God’”, which brought him “considerable calm”. She appreciates his “cultural scope”, that “spans continents”, and suggests that his “near-seamless transition from a village prodigy to a global scholar” is a “stunning example of Muslim cosmopolitanism”. She refers to Nadwi’s kindness, reserve, politeness and patience, and his open-mindedness and respect for differences while being deeply-rooted in his faith. She exults in the fact while being a traditional Muslim religious scholar, he is also committed to women’s rights. She writes of his deep spirituality, his insistence on the reform of the self, and his opposition to extremism and violence in the name of Islam, to politics-centric misinterpretations of the faith and to narrowly-inscribed Muslim identity politics. She notes how he regularly counsels his fellow Muslims to ignore provocation, to be patient in the face of adversity, to desist from blindly following religious authorities, to abstain from confrontation, to change themselves rather than seeking to change political systems, and to reach out to people of other faiths in a spirit of goodwill.

Clearly, as Power suggests, Nadwi just does not conform to widely-held stereotypical ideas about Muslim clerics, or even about Muslims generally.

Power does not conceal the fact that on some issues Nadwi and she think differently. This, however, did not come in the way of their friendship. Studying Islam with Nadwi did not lead her to convert to the faith, but it did help Power gain a more appreciative understanding of it and those who seek to live by it. Learning about Islam provided her, she says, “many moments of grace”. “Even as a nonbeliever”, she explains, “I still found myself taking refuge in the Quran classes as a calm inlet from daily life.” Studying with Nadwi, Power was led to appreciate the beauty of his firm conviction, rooted in his faith, that many of the ups and downs of this world that people get so worked up about “all were nothing next to the fact that from God we come and to God we return.”

This book is a beautiful testimony to the power of personal friendships in bringing together people of different faiths and cultures and helping them realise that goodness is something that is truly universal, intrinsic to our common humanness, and is to be found in every community and individual. The friendship that this book celebrates will powerfully resonate with just about everyone concerned about healing our world that is being torn apart by divisive ideologies.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/roshan-shah,-new-age-islam/falsity-of-the-thesis-‘clash-of-civilizations’-that-insists,-muslims-and-others-simply-cannot-live-together-in-peace-and-harmony/d/110431

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  • Dear Hats off: My condition of accepting my response may go against the norms of debating, it may appear childlike to you, but it is logical in the context of debating with you when numerous scholars have tried their best to get you satisfied and convinced but you remained adamant to your reasons for your point. That is why I have used the term “invincible” for you in the field of information and in the sense of fighting by the means of information and not by sword.
    For you utmost displeasure, I fully agree to the meaning and explanation of the word “Kafir” given by Mr Naseer and others on this site, which you have categorically refused, no question of agreeing and accepting it.
    The list provided by you comprising of dozens of questions have no significance or consequences with the practice of peaceful Islam. The list of followers of different faiths - Muslims and Non-Muslims in Muslim or non-Muslim countries respectively have nothing to do with faith of a common Muslim practicing his faith in any part of the world. Further, we have nothing to do with the Khomeini’s Fatwa, Zakir’s opinion, Bukhari’s statement, Jamaiti’s practice, or anybody else.
    Our Faith should be our own, based upon Allah’s Qur’an and the prophet (pbuh)’s Sunnah, that is it.
    Now in the context of peaceful existence in RSS ruled states or in India as a whole, we have to think about how to manage a peaceful co-existence in the wake of threatening knocks at the doors, genocide looming large at the doorsteps of the Muslim population if they don’t give Babri Masjid land to the Hindus. Alternatively, in case the Supreme Court gives verdict of title suit in favour of the Muslims.
    At present in India, triple talaq or halala are not the real issues or dangers to the masses.
    The real dangers which are threatening our co-existence are the Yuva Vahini sadasya, RSS MPs who are slapping slippers to the air-hostesses, the communal bureaucrats who are running after poor Muslims’ heads etc etc etc.
    By Raihan Nezami - 3/23/2017 9:31:27 PM

  • What a snobbish and condescending rant from Hats Off!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/23/2017 1:57:40 PM

  • dear mr. raihan nezami

    first: i think the word "invincible" is probably not what you had in mind (i hope i am not mistaken). i am just an 'hostile apostate'. i am not invincible. if the mutazilites could be silenced forever by islamic terror, after all who am i?

    second: you are demanding a condition - that is - you will tell me the meaning of the word kafir ONLY if i accept it. kindly do not forget that we have arabic dictionaries that provide meanings of arabic words - it is not dependent upon my acceptance or your rejection. it depends upon dictionaries. and just to remind you, arabic was previous to the Holy Qur'an. should i frame a similar request for you? i would not and i should not. arguments do not work like that. you propose, others oppose and so it goes on until either the issue is resolved or some one drops out. and by the way can anyone be more negative than those who hate shirk? a benevolent god or his benevolent nabi have absolutely no business with hatred or hell. if they do, they are fakes.

    if you DO have a meaning for the word kafir, kindly just say it. to demand that i agree to accept your meaning BEFORE you are willing to share it sounds childlike. depending upon whether an arabic dictionary agrees with your meaning or not, i will accept it or reject it. deal?

    third: i am probably like islam and perhaps like you too - who never listen to idol worshipers and polytheists - but just sing and listen only to their own tune. by the way music is haraam - except for drums of war. read texts that have evolved out of one and a half millennia of islamic imperialism slash colonialism before you jump to accept the illogical drivel from IIT trained engineering exegetes who have no clue and are willing to support and defend rape of right hand possessions, beheading of an upward of 900 jews, taking a fifth of war booty, expelling non-muslims from the hejaz, extorting jizya and marrying foster daughters-in-law. these are truly depraved actions supported proudly by the likes of mr. naseer ahmed.

    i hope i have tried to answer you, but if i have failed, the defect is entirely mine. allah knows best or second best. his nabi knows better. islam is all about a male human nabi and blindly following him. it is not about allah. its not about truth. but allah knows best and his nabi knows even better than allah can ever hope to.


    ps. entirely as an aside, do you know what are the percentages of non-muslim minorities in all the 50 odd islamic nations? do you know the percentages of muslims in all the rest of non-muslim countries? and how they are enforcing halaal rules everywhere they migrate? and then still do you believe the nonsense about 'to you your religion and to me mine? non-muslim minorities in islamic and muslim majority nations range from just about 1% to less than 10%. this is for your information. and still mr. naseer ahmed lies to assert that islam is a tolerant religion that protects minorities. he is a very convinced liar who does not even know he lies. do you know there are elected muslim members of the israeli knesset while there isn't a single jew in the palestinian power structure? i could tell a lot of stuff like this that drive mr. naseer ahmed out of his little mind. but then, i need not. its all in public domain. do you know that the ayotollah khomeini said that a girl must must have her first blood in her in-laws' house? do you know that he said that a husband could have sexual pleasure with his child wife by thighing if penetration could harm her genitals? do you seriously believe the ayotollah was an enemy of islam? do you think bin baaz was an enemy of islam? do you think al qaradhawi is an enemy of islam? so who is stubborn? you or i? i can give you a long, long list of weblinks that will make one's blood (but not the blood of believers) boil. all these are links to tv talk shows by some of the most respected ulemas and islamic scholars from all over the world. but i do not expect you to have an open mind. often believers are like mr. naseer ahmed. they have lost the capacity to doubt and have sold their conscience for cheap blind loyalty to weak fallible men who masquerade as prophets. and they think stupid psychoanalysis will help cover their depravity. it never helps though.

    do a google search for all the tolerant, kind, ennobling and liberal khutbas from thousands of ulemas from al-azhar, from egyptian al hayat tv, from saudi arabian al ahwaz tv (just two examples) and then start your lecturing. don't tell me they are all enemies of islam.


    By hats off! - 3/23/2017 9:31:10 AM

  • What has Hats Off's fulminations got to do with the meaning of Kafir?

    He is simply consumed by impotent rage at not being able to cite even one verse from the Quran where the meaning of "Kafir" is "non-Muslim" as claimed by him. He is an inveterate liar and unable to accept the truth.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/23/2017 3:21:06 AM

  • Dear Hats off:
    First, you promise to accept the meaning of the word "Kafir" given by me, only then I will tell you; otherwise there is no sense in speaking to a stubborn invincible person like you who plays his own tune and listen himself only.

    By Raihan Nezami - 3/23/2017 2:37:32 AM

  • mr. raihan nezami must verify the meaning of the word "kafir" before he lets loose.
    By hats off! - 3/23/2017 1:51:05 AM

  • defending slave raids, ghazwas, right-hand possessions, jizya and denigration of the religion and scriptures of others produces a sickness of mind that cannot see injustice as long as it is done by ones own prophet and ones own imaginary god.
    the rage they experience on being confronted succeeds in blinding them and completely superseding their conscience.
    it is not exaggeration when screaming hordes of muslims ravage the streets carrying signs that say "we love our prophet more that our lives".
    this point is wonderfully proved by mr. naseer ahmed's rage and fury.
    prophetic religions rapidly degenerate into prophet worship. it leads the followers to declare that they love their prophet even more than their own parents. (i can provide weblinks if needed. all from authentic islamic sources, or from hugely popular middle eastern islamic scholars, pakistani scholars, european converts to islam and more sources than you would like.)
    when followers of a cult have succeeded in replacing their innate human values with blind obeisance to their prophets (however unjustly the prophets have acted in real life) they become like the victims of jim jones. they lose their capacity to doubt.
    this is the illness that consumes mr. naseer ahmed and his blind rage when his prophets are criticized. but it does not enrage him when his prophets do unimaginably dishonorable things such as take sex slaves or behead hundreds of jews. that is typical cult behaviour. freud cannot help here.
    he believes his prophets are even higher than the god they falsely preached.
    watch and enjoy the video below which is proof that religion indeed is a sickness. the speaker is also an islamic scholar, fully envenomated by years of islamic study.

    By hats off! - 3/23/2017 1:50:08 AM

  • Dear Hats off: I respect your penchant desire for learning, but alas! it is not for positive intentions as you are always indulged in negative discussions with anybody, be it any topic, you pour venomous, malicious, fallacious, irritating remarks only. I hope it is not on this forum only as it seems to me it has been your habit or formed a part of your nature. Your malicious design in framing out insulting comments against Islamic persons or scriptures, based upon your favorite writers such Abu Ishaq and other fabricated biographies by the Islam-haters is by far clear to everybody here; that is why you see hardly anybody minds your remarks about Qur'an or our prophet Hz Mohammad (pbuh).
    A person is not a human who does not know how to respect fellow citizens' feelings, is not less than a social criminal or an intellectual terrorist.
    Your world where you find pleasure is ten times worse than our world, and you people are further worsening the social environment by implementing your communal agenda, anti-Islam agenda, anti-human agenda etc etc.
    Another point, you don't need to speak on Aayina 's or any other 's behalf as they too have quite stronger voices than you.

    By Raihan Nezami - 3/22/2017 11:50:29 PM

  • Hats Off is once again indulging in psychological projection. It is he who is logic proof and impervious to all evidence of a logical nature. 

    The meaning of kafir has been derived from the Quran following a logical process. Two verses in which it means oppressor have been cited but there are many more. War is permissible only against the oppressors. 

    It also means an ingrate rebel for example Satan, or Moses vis-a-vis the Pharaoh. War is not permitted against such kafir.

    As it concerns the spiritual dimension in which God alone is the judge, it means those who willfully reject Allah's guidance after being convinced of the truth. War/punishment is not permissible against such kafir either.

    There isn't even one verse of the Quran where it means non-Muslim.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/22/2017 11:37:47 PM

  • the fact of the matter is that the Holy Qur'an (not the koran) refers to non-muslims as kuffar. as allah is a confused entity he often misuses pronouns, past and other tenses. allh has a hard time deciding if to speak for himself or the prophet. like the prophet's favorite wife is supposed to have said "allah seems to provide revelations just to suit your needs."

    but mr. raihan nezami being what he is - clueless - he should look up an arabic dictionary for the meaning of 'kafir'. if his brain cannot handle an arabic dictionary he should perhaps be reading marvel comics or roznama.

    mr. raihan nezami appears to be a logic proof person. he should tie up with his pop star mr. naseer ahmed and try to learn null hypothesis and market research. then he might have some hope or develop a little bit of brains.

    otherwise he best bet is to stick to teaching me how to spell 'koran' aka the Holy Qur'an. or he should try teaching his pakistani cousins how to spell pakistan - especially since the arabic alphabet does not have a letter to represent the letter 'p' which urdu has. but then he is the master of arabic.

    or he should stick to telling mr. ayina and me to stop indians from raping women. he is eminently suitable for such stupider aspects of rape. especially since in india we do not need four witnesses to actually witness the penetration. he should read ibn ishaq.

    there is no hope for morons or for believers in human texts passed off by selfish prophets as divine.

    they can at best clap on cue or scream on command.

    By hats off! - 3/22/2017 7:46:27 AM

  • Puerile comment by Hats Off. Kafir/kufr is a category much like sinner/sin, criminal/crime. Just because we have words like murderer/murder, thief/theft, rapist/rape etc. does not make criminal/crime unnecessary.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/22/2017 2:11:08 AM

  • Hats off says, "apparently allah needs mr. naseer ahmed to teach him arabic" 
    Do you mean to say that Allah needs you to explain the words, terms, and phrases

    By Raihan Nezami - 3/22/2017 2:08:34 AM

  • Puerile comment on the Holy Quran by Hats Off! The Book is holy in the idiomatic sense but its message exhorting us to be righteous, just, peaceful, truthful, rational and compassionate is holy.

    Hats Off's insults to the Quran are designed to offend and disconcert the readers of this forum.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/21/2017 1:35:29 PM

  • if the Holy Qur'an is even capable of being mistranslated or misinterpreted, it is not a 'clear book in which there is no doubt'.

    therein lies its contradiction.

    if it is argued that it is humans who do this abomination, it means the creator aka allah is incapable of perfection - either in his creation or in writing fairy tales.

    perhaps he is not so perfect at all.

    By hats off! - 3/21/2017 8:53:02 AM

  • i wonder if allah's knowledge of arabic vocabulary was so poor he could not use words for "relihious" and "oppression". and so he kept using the word "kafir" whenever he wanted to say "religious oppressor".

    apparently allah needs mr. naseer ahmed to teach him arabic or to tell allah what exactly he means when he says something unthinkable.

    By hats off! - 3/21/2017 6:28:31 AM

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