By Amyn B. Sajoo
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Additional info for A Companion to Muslim Cultures
While the ethical tenets of the sharia make it the ‘passageway’ into the faith, he distinguishes sharply its interpretive heritage, of which the legal tradition (fiqh) is a part. There is ‘certainly more to Islam than the sharia, which is only part of the rich experience of being a Muslim’, notes An-Naim. The individual’s voluntary submission is of the essence in the theology of the sharia itself, and it is impaired by any coercion. Claims by the state to be its enforcer are exercises in secular politics, and violate the civic pluralism to which both Islamic and contemporary human rights principles hold the state accountable.
Earle Waugh brings this home in his colourful survey of ‘everyday piety’ not only around the Quran but also Muhammad, the Shia Imams and saintly figures whose tombs can be places of uniquely evocative practises. Secular culture may also serve religious ends in highly non-traditional ways, such as when ‘Muslim rap’ makes the music charts. Objects like rosaries or, in Egypt, the eye of Horus, can acquire a sacred quality through use in rituals. Waugh regards popular piety as engaging key aspects of how we see ourselves and our solidarities; as such, it becomes ‘an essential part of the journey of modernity’.
While the focus is on the civic environment – palace communities, urban fortifications, bathhouses, bazaars, public squares, gardens – there are recurrent themes that overlap with religious architecture. Wide reliance on arches, courtyards, pillared halls and elaborate screens (mashrebiyyas), for example, creates an ‘ever-evolving group of aesthetic identities’ around shared tastes. But as such local preferences are displaced by western tastes brought in by globalisation, is there a future for a ‘Muslim’ architecture?
A Companion to Muslim Cultures by Amyn B. Sajoo