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Who Is Allah?

Who Is Allah?

Bruce B. Lawrence
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Who Is Allah?
    Book Description:

    This vivid introduction to the heart of Islam offers a unique approach to understanding Allah, the central focus of Muslim religious expression. Drawing on history, culture, theology, politics, and the media, Bruce B. Lawrence identifies key religious practices by which Allah is revered and remembered, illuminating how the very name of Allah is interwoven into the everyday experience of millions of Muslims.For Muslims, as for adherents of other religions, intentions as well as practices are paramount in one's religious life. Lawrence elucidates how public utterances, together with private pursuits, reflect the emotive, sensory, and intellectual aspirations of the devout. Ranging from the practice of the tongue (speaking) to practices in cyberspace (online religious activities), Lawrence explores how Allah is invoked, defined, remembered, and also debated. While the practice of the heart demonstrates how Allah is remembered in Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, the practice of the mind examines how theologians and philosophers have defined Allah in numerous contexts, often with conflicting aims. The practice of the ear marks the contemporary period, in which Lawrence locates and then assesses competing calls for jihad, or religious struggle, within the cacophony of an immensely diverse umma, the worldwide Muslim community.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-2327-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Allah is said to be ubiquitous, all encompassing, and inescapable. Allah is a name but more than a name. Allah is the name for one beyond limits, including the limits of naming. How can we approach this puzzle? Can we dare to examine, interpret, and perhaps explain the pervasive name that supersedes all other names? Can we accept it as the thing that eludes all efforts to appropriate, to contain, and so to restrict it?

    Perhaps we must be content with traces. And so we begin by looking at a prayer, a hymn, an aphorism, and a pop song. Later...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Allah Invoked Practice of the Tongue
    (pp. 25-54)

    Daily engagement with Allah, by whatever name He is known, becomes a key approach to understanding the Thing, the Absolute, the One. It is where Muslims begin, with the daily, constant, and varied invocation of the name Allah, often in the phraseAllah taʿala, Allah the Lofty the Exalted (lit. “Allah—may He be exalted”). To paint a tapestry as rich and varied as the inflection of Allah in everyday life, one must discern patterns. I have elected three. The first looks at the intimate link of the Thing, the One to the man, the many. It is an approach...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Allah Defined Practice of the Mind
    (pp. 55-83)

    There are two paths to knowing, and practicing, the name Allah. One is content, the other context. Content focuses on the who and what: who said what about Allah? Context focuses on the where and how: where did the knower or practitioner invoke, or rely on, the name Allah? And how did he or she share with others that knowledge or practice of Allah?

    Mere mention of the pronoun “she” brings an instant qualification: nearly all those who are cited in speaking about Allah are men. Their musings and arguments are center stage in the vast literary corpus that has...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Allah Remembered Practice of the Heart
    (pp. 84-117)

    Beyond invoking or defining Allah lies the task of remembering Allah, as both Omar Khayyam and Ibn ʿArabi understood intuitively.¹ At first glance, one might ask: what distinguishes invoking Allah from remembering Allah? The two seem very close. Both are practices dedicated to Allah, yet there is a discernible line separating them.

    Invoking Allah is a performative activity; it becomes part of the inventory of activities expected of a devout Muslim. While it might be reflective, it can be, and often is, simply instinctual or habitual. Remembering Allah, however, requires an intense, dedicated practice of introspection. It begins with a...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Allah Debated Practice of the Ear
    (pp. 118-140)

    Debunking Allah is the pastime of cynics, critics, and mimics. Sometimes the most intelligent people engage in these activities, and because of their mass appeal, now expanded by the Internet and the World Wide Web, they must be acknowledged. Are they largely polemical? Yes. Is there a small residue of truth in their disparagements? Yes, and for that reason, and only for that reason, must they be acknowledged, their perspectives explored, their grievances aired.

    The Omar Khayyam cited here mimics the secret prized by Sufis. Can it be read as a rejection of Allah (here translated as God)? Yes, especially...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Allah Online Practices in Cyberspace
    (pp. 141-162)

    It has often been remarked that Arabic is the sacred language of Islam, so much so that one cannot imagine Islamic discourse or ritual or community or piety without Arabic. To put that pronouncement in perspective, one needs only to consider that over 80 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are not Arabs. They neither speak Arabic nor have Arab ancestry. They are non-Arabs. Most come from two parts of Asia: the Indian subcontinent, or South Asia; and the Pacific archipelago, or Southeast Asia. Yet the last prophet, in an Islamic calculus, was the Arab merchant turned messenger Muhammad,...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 163-182)

    How to think the unthought or imagine the unimaginable?¹ It is at once a project and a challenge—to the mind, to the heart, and even to the notion of self for all those attached to the Name, the Thing, the Absolute, the One: Allah. It has occupied wordsmiths, intellectuals, scholars, mystics, and mainstream practitioners—from the seventh century to the twenty-first century. It has also occupied artists whose language is channeled through the hand and directed to the eyes, the ears, and also the heart. Artists ask: How can art redefine, and reconfigure, what is meant by Allah? Convention...

  11. Glossary
    (pp. 183-186)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 187-202)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-208)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 209-212)
  15. Index
    (pp. 213-224)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)