Islam in America

Islam in America

Jane I. Smith
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 355
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  • Book Info
    Islam in America
    Book Description:

    Most Americans are only vaguely aware of the Muslim community in the United States and know little about the religion itself, despite Islam's increasing importance in international affairs and the rapid growth in the number of Americans who call themselves Muslims. Now a foremost authority in the field has crafted a richly textured portrait of the Muslim community in the United States today. Jane I. Smith introduces the basic tenets of the Muslim faith, surveys the history of Islam in this country, and profiles the lifestyles, religious practices, and worldviews of American Muslims.

    The volume pays particular attention to the tension felt by many in this community as they attempt to live faithfully, adhering to their traditions while at the same time adapting to an alien culture that appears to many Muslims to be excessively secular and materialistic. The book also covers the role of women in American Islam, the raising and educating of children, the use of products acceptable to Muslims, appropriate dress and behavior, concerns about prejudice and unfair treatment, and other issues related to life in a country in which Islam is often misunderstood.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50039-5
    Subjects: Religion, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    “I hadn’t gone shopping for a new religion. After twenty-five years as a writer in America, I wanted something to soften my cynicism. I was searching for new terms by which to see …. I could not have drawn up a list of demands, but I had a fair idea of what I was after …. There would be no priests, no separation between nature and things sacred. There would be no war with the flesh, if I could help it. Sex would be natural, not the seat of a curse upon the species. Finally, I’d want a ritual component,...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Muslim Faith and Practice
    (pp. 1-21)

    On Friday shortly after noon in the small inner-city mosque, primarily African American, the worshipers slowly gather. A man who has volunteered to vacuum before each prayer service makes certain that the carpets are clean to receive the foreheads of those who will soon bow in prostration to God. Each person removes his or her shoes before entering the worship hall, placing them in a wooden rack near the front door. The carpets, which are really thin runners, are arranged so that those gathered for prayer will be facing in the direction of Mecca, indicated by a plaque in the...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Contributors to the Development of Islam
    (pp. 22-49)

    What is Islam? For American Muslims, it means many different things, although the most immediate answer is that it consists of the revelation of the Qur’an, the experiences of its Prophet, and its requirements of faith and practice. This is Islam in its essential meaning. However, the many individuals who over the centuries have called themselves Muslim have shaped and developed Islam as a living faith. In the same way, the decisions American Muslims make about how to understand and practice the faith in a Western context will significantly define Islam in the next century. In this chapter we will...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Islam Comes to America
    (pp. 50-75)

    Commentators on the emergence of Islam in the North American scene have looked for the most part to the middle and latter part of the nineteenth century as signaling the first real arrival of Muslims in the United States. Indeed, at this time the first Muslim immigrants, primarily from the Middle East, began to come to North America in hopes of earning some kind of fortune, large or small, and then returning to their homelands. We will return to their story shortly. Going back considerably further, some scholars currently argue that for nearly two centuries before the time of Christopher...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Islam in the African American Community
    (pp. 76-103)

    Students of black religion in America are now increasingly aware that voluntary immigration was only one of the ways in which Muslims arrived on the shores of “the promised land.” Others came against their will, finding America a land not of promise but of bondage. These were the Muslims brought in the slave trade of colonial and post-colonial America. It is now a well-established fact that a significant number of black Africans brought to North America during the antebellum slave trade were Muslim. Numbers are impossible to determine, but there may have been several thousand. Some have even postulated that...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Women and the Muslim American Family
    (pp. 104-125)

    Some observers of Islam in the international arena have predicted that issues involving Muslim women’s roles and identities will be near the top of the concerns to which contemporary Muslims must pay serious attention in the coming decades. Certainly, movements for women’s rights and for reform of traditional family laws are taking place in many parts of the world. In this as in other areas of Islamic change, America may well prove to be a place both of experimentation and of affirmation of many traditional values. Women and men in the United States are turning their attention increasingly to the...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Living a Muslim Life in American Society
    (pp. 126-149)

    One of the most important concerns for American Muslims is the education of members of the community, stretching from conversations about Islamic parochial education for children, to mosque instruction, to forms of continuing adult education. The acquisition of knowledge has always been a prime consideration in Islam, and American Muslims refer frequently to the Prophet’s affirmation that every Muslim attain as much knowledge as possible, even if one must go as far as China to get it. Such encouragement strengthens the educational resolve of Muslims of all ages, from young people to elderly immigrants, who may need simply to improve...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The Public Practice of Islam
    (pp. 150-176)

    A Muslim architect who came from Pakistan to the United States as a student in 1960 describes his attempts to find a mosque in the Pittsburgh area. His host family, eager to make him feel at home, took him to the closest facsimile they could find. “As we turned onto a minor street on the University of Pittsburgh campus,” Gulzar Haider writes, “[my host] pointed to a vertical neon sign that said in no uncertain terms ‘Syria Mosque.’ … Horseshoe arches, horizontal bands of different colored bricks, decorative terra-cotta—all were devices to invoke a Moorish memory. Excitedly, I took...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Looking to the Future
    (pp. 177-188)

    “The impact of Islam on the future of the American society will depend, to a great extent, on how relevant Islamic principles are to this society. Islamic ideas and ideals need to be articulated in a language that is understood by the masses, and carried out by institutions that can effectively deal with issues that are relevant to the people. Our goal is to reach the minds and hearts of those who aspire for a better future.”¹

    So says Dr. Maher Hathout of the Islamic Center of Southern California, one of the prominent spokespersons for contemporary American Islam, in an...

  12. PROFILES American Muslims of Note
    (pp. 189-204)

    The preceding chapters have presented information about the history of Islam and its various manifestations in America in as narrative a style as possible, attempting to allow the lives of individual Muslims to illustrate the range of backgrounds, interests, and interpretations that have contributed to and continue to make up the picture of Islam in the West. Following are brief biographical sketches of twelve men and women not detailed earlier, whose lives exemplify some of the contributions Muslims have made to life in America. They are immigrants, African Americans, and Anglo converts, men and women, scholars and athletes and religious...

    (pp. 205-208)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 209-214)
    (pp. 215-218)
    (pp. 219-226)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 227-252)