SFU & IIS’s Dr Amyn Sajoo inspires Aga Khan Museum audience at the special book launch and signing of A Companion of Muslim Cultures

On Wednesday evening (April 22, 2015)  Aga Khan Museum, Toronto in collaboration with the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), London profiled Dr. Amyn B. Sajoo who presented his edited collection of essays by some of today’s finest scholars.

A Companion of Muslim Cultures, is the third book in the Muslim Heritage Series. This volume embarks on a journey that celebrates the many ways in which Muslims live and understand their faith.

Interview with the Author: Dr Amyn Sajoo: A Companion to Muslim CulturesThis Companion begins a fresh initiative — the Muslim Heritage Series — which aims to bring insightful essays on key themes in the civilisations and cultures of Islam to a general readership.

There are exciting challenges in doing so, of the kind that confront any such venture today. Scholars in every discipline have a language that has become specialised over time, and is perhaps suitable for dialogue within the discipline.

Alas, this can make it impenetrable even to highly intelligent readers from outside the field. One recalls George Bernard Shaw’s quip that ‘all professions are a conspiracy against the laity’.

– Amyn B. Sajoo in the Introduction to ‘A Companion of Muslim Cultures’

At the heart of A Companion to Muslim Cultures is the idea that culture frames the relationship between God and the believer, as well as how believers relate to one another and to those amongst whom they live.

Fasts, prayers and pilgrimages are attuned to social rhythms old and new, no less than the designs of mosques and public gardens, the making of ‘religious’ music, and ways of thinking about technology and wellbeing. Ancient deserts and modern urban landscapes may echo with the same call for transcendence, but in voices that emerge from very different everyday realities. Scripture itself, as the Prophet Muhammad knew, is ever seen through a cultural lens; both language and what it communicates are intimately tied to context. And the cosmopolitanism that runs through Muslim history from the outset recalls T.S. Eliot’s remark that culture is ‘that which makes life worth living’. It frames how the deepest religious values are understood and practiced, from modesty in adornment and solidarity with the underprivileged, to integrity and accountability in political life. Muslims have never been content with a passive separation of faith from their daily lives, whether public or private.

What are the implications of this holistic view in a diverse world of Muslims and non-Muslims? How do core ethical values interface with the particulars of local cultures in all their complexity, especially when it comes to matters like the status of women and the scope of individual religious freedom? The answers – at a time when secular and Muslim identities appear to be locked in conflict – are explored in this Companion by some of today’s finest scholars.

Essays by various scholars are listed below as presented in the table of contents of the bookA Companion of Muslim Cultures - Amyn Sajoo

1. Introduction: Faith and Culture: Amyn B. Sajoo
2. Everyday Tradition: Earle Waugh
3. Modernity: Secular and Sacred: Abdullahi An-Na’im
4. Spiritual Life: Carl W. Ernst
5. Gender and Identity: Elena Caprioni and Eva Sajoo
6. Science and Social Change: Morgan Clarke
7. Architecture and Community: Hussein Keshani
8. Moving Words: Jonathan M. Bloom
9. Moving Sounds: Jonathan Shannon
10. A Taste of Mecca: Mai Yamani
11. Cosmopolitanism: Ways of Being Muslim: Karim H. Karim

ISBN-13: 978-1780761275 ISBN-10: 1780761279

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About Amyn Sajoo

Professor Amyn SajooDr. Amyn Sajoo is Scholar-in-Residence at the Centre for Study of Muslim Societies & Cultures at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada. He was previously affiliated with Cambridge and McGill universities, the Canadian Department of Justice, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), London — and is the founding editor of the IIS’s Muslim Heritage Series.

Dr. Sajoo was Canadian Visiting Scholar in Egypt, Jordan and Syria on the eve of the ‘Arab Spring’, and has guest lectured across Europe, North America and West Asia.

He is the author of Muslim Ethics: Emerging Vistas and Pluralism in Old Societies and New States — and the editor of five books, including Muslim Modernities and the forthcoming volume, The Shi’a World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity.

 


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