DESCRIPTION: Khaled Abou El Fadl is a classically-trained Islamic jurist, an American lawyer and law professor, and one of the most important Islamic thinkers today. In this updated and expanded edition of The Search for Beauty in Islam, Abou El Fadl offers eye-opening and enlightening insights into the contemporary realities of the current state of Islam and the West. Through a "conference of the books," an imagined conference of Muslim intellects from centuries past, Abou El Fadl examines the ugliness that has come to plague Muslim realities and attempts to reclaim what he maintains is a core moral value in Islam-the value of beauty. Does Islamic law allow, or even call for, the gruesome acts of ugliness that have become so commonly associated with Islam today? Has Islam become a religion devoid of beauty, compassion and love?
Based on actual cases, this book tackles different issues and problems in each chapter through a post-9/11 lens, discussing such topics as marriage, divorce, parental rights, the position of women, the
veil, sexual abuse, wife-beating, terrorism, bigotry, morality, law, and the role of tradition. Abou El Fadl argues that the rekindling of the forgotten value of beauty is essential for Muslims today to take back what has been lost to the fundamentalist forces that have denigrated their religion.
Preface for the New Edition
Glossary of Terms
About the Author
The original volume entitled, "Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam" was published by the University Press of America, an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield publishers. It was published in Hardback and Paperback editions. Many of the original chapters of the first edition first appeared as articles in The Minaret Magazine, a circular published by the Islamic Center of Southern California in the 1980's.
The new and updated edition entitled "The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books," was published by Rowman and Littlefield and included 22 additional chapters along with an updated preface.
"...El Fadl attempts to offer interpretations that are humanistic and accommodating to modern values, yet simultaneously challenging for traditionalist scholars and preachers."
(An-Chi Hoh Dianu The Library Quarterly)
"This highly original book is in part a dialogue with Muslim scholars in the past, and, in part, a hymn to an enthralling vision that 'beauty' is to bring life to the truth of the Prophet. The dialogue shows the enormous breadth of [the author's] reading in classic works of learning by Muslims, and his vision suggests a new spiritual esthetic, which is both inspiring and challenging."
(Roy Parviz Mottahedeh, Gurney Professor of History, Harvard University)
"Khaled Abou El Fadl is emerging as a major Muslim voice for the twenty-first century. Conference of the Books is an excellent introduction to the ideas, insights, and reflections of this important scholar of Islam and Islamic law, author, and poet."
(John L. Esposito, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University)
"Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, the most important scholar writing on Islamic jurisprudence and its development in the American context today, sets a high standard here for legal discourse and practice among North American Muslims."
(Karen Leonard, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine)
"Each independent essay may be read in any order, but collectively they illustrate richness and diversity."
(Charles C. Kolb, National Endowment for the Humanities, Religious Studies Review)
"The Conference of the Books is a collection of studies in the ethos of the Islamic intellectual heritage and the contemporary Muslim reality. The studies presented in this book arose from my encounters, as a jurist and teacher, with Muslims in the United States and other parts of the world. The essays were written in response to actual recurring problems in the Muslim community that are directly relevant to the moral and ethical definition of Islam in the contemporary world. The range of topics addressed in this book is quite broad; among others, the topics include censorship, political oppression, terrorism, the veil and the treatment of women, marriage, parental rights, the role of Islamic law, the dynamics between law and morality, and the character of the Prophet Muhammad. The range of topics was dictated by the types of issues raised by the people I encountered, as well as by my own spiritual and moral development. Therefore, there is a noticeable evolvement in these essays, and I leave it to the reader to decide on the direction and merit of this evolution.
"The essays, however, do not represent a systematic argument towards a specific conclusion, nor is this book intended as a scholastic discourse on the contemporary Muslim reality. The essays do not assume an air of detachment or academic objectivity but, rather, reflect a variety of moods; they are passionate, jubilant, angry, and sometimes sarcastic, but they are invariably committed. Each essay was written in the context of an imagined conference of books that occurs every night. The books represented here are the books of my personal library, which contains books on a variety of subjects including Judaism, Christianity, law, philosophy, and literature. However, the books represented in this conference are mostly classical Islamic texts, and these texts engage their readers in reflections about the contemporary Muslim reality. Books, in general, preserve snapshots of the intellectual activity of their authors. Classical Islamic texts are the repository of the intellects of the past—the intellects that eventually transformed into books. And, it is my belief that, of all God’s wondrous creations, the intellect is the most wondrous of all, and it is also my belief that a book is the gift of God that preserves the intellect for generations to come. With this in mind, I engaged the intellects of the past in addressing the intellects of the present. A Muslim may read these essays as the testament of a Muslim jurist on the problems that confront us today. A non-Muslim may read these essays for their sociological significance and for their relevance to comparative insights on law and theology. Yet, as the Islamic message was addressed to human beings at large, I wrote these essays for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
"Each essay in this collection is designed to stand on its own merit, so the book may be read selectively or out of order. Nevertheless, there are unifying themes in this book, and these unifying themes are this work’s basic message. My primary focus is on the ethos of knowledge and beauty in modern Islam. Furthermore, this book seeks to create a nexus and bond between the Islamic intellectual heritage of the past and contemporary Muslim thought. Muslims today are uprooted from their intellectual tradition, and the result has been that Muslims have lost the ethos of knowledge, as well as their moral and intellectual grounding. The Islamic message started with a single book—the Qur’an—a book of remarkable moral vision and beauty. And, this single book has inspired an intellectual heritage of beauty and magnificence. It is my hope that the Conference of the Books will help rekindle the interest of Muslims in the book, and in their rich intellectual heritage..."