Upon several enquiries into what I’ve been reading this summer, I quickly put together a list of (i) what I have already read, (ii) what I am currently reading, and (iii) what I plan on reading before the end of the summer. This summer I am not teaching so I have been able to give more time to reading than normally my schedule can afford.
I have only included books that I am reading casually and have thus excluded reference works, hadith commentaries, tafsīr books, etc… that I am using for research purposes. Most the books will be read – or have been already – cover to cover, although some I may be reading only partially. One may notice the preponderance of English works. This year, for several reasons, I am doing much less Urdu and Arabic leisure reading. Descriptions for the books below are not my own.
1) Composite Nationalism and Islam by Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani
Reprint of a fundamental Muslim work, opposing Jinnah, originally published in 1938. With new introduction by Barbara Metcalf. A valuable book in Muslim, India, and communal history.
2) Signs on the Horizon: Meetings with Men of Knowledge and Illumination by Michael Sugich
Signs on the Horizon is an enthralling contemporary memoir of one seeker’s interactions with men who have transcended the ordinary and achieved stations of spirituality and enlightenment that in the modern world we only attribute to the Biblical fathers of ancient times or to myth. Michael Sugich, an American writer who was initiated into a traditional Sufi order over forty years ago and who lived for 23 years in the sacred city of Makkah Al Mukaramah, has kept company with some of the greatest Sufi saints of the age from many parts of the world. His book is a unique eye-witness narrative of a mystical tradition that today hides in plain sight, veiled by the turbulence and materialism gripping the Muslim world. It is a spellbinding personal memoir told with eloquence, empathy, self-effacing humor, insight and love.
3) Lost Islamic History by Firas Alkhateeb
Islam has been one of the most powerful religious, social, and political forces in history. Over the last 1400 years, from origins in Arabia, a succession of Muslim polities and later empires expanded to control territories and peoples that ultimately stretched from southern France, to East Africa to South East Asia.
Yet many of the contributions of Muslim thinkers, scientists, and theologians, not to mention rulers, statesmen and soldiers, have been occluded. This book rescues from oblivion and neglect some of these personalities and institutions while offering the reader a new narrative of this lost Islamic history. The Umayyads, Abbasids, and Ottomans feature in the story, as do Muslim Spain, the savannah kingdoms of West Africa and the Mughal Empire, along with the later European colonization of Muslim lands and the development of modern nation-states in the Muslim world. Throughout, the impact of Islamic belief on scientific advancement, social structures, and cultural development is given due prominence, and the text is complemented by portraits of key personalities, inventions and little known historical nuggets. The history of Islam and of the world’s Muslims brings together diverse peoples, geographies, and states, all interwoven into one narrative that begins with Muhammad and continues to this day.
4) Moghreb el-Acksa by Cunninghame Graham
R. B. Cunninghame Graham’s trek into the Moroccan interior beyond Marrakesh is a classic example of British adventure travel. His ostensible purpose was to reach the forbidden city of Tarudant, where it was claimed no Christian had ever set foot, and which he attempted while variously disguised as a Turkish doctor and a sheikh from Fez. In the end, Cunninghame Graham’s mission was a failure: halfway to his goal, he was captured and held prisoner for four months in the medieval castle of Kintafi in the Atlas Mountains. But his loss was the reader’s gain, as Edward Garnet points out in his introduction, for “the episode of this enforced detention in [a] strange semi-Arcadian, semi-feudalistic scene, while the traveller watches day after day the panorama of Berber life…is unique in the literature of travel”. Part history, part social commentary as only the British wrote it, Cunninghame Graham’s account of his travels makes fascinating reading nearly a century later.
5) The Ramadan of Shaikh Al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya and Our Elders by Dr. Mohammad Ismail Memon Madani
The blessed month of Ramadan is a special gift from Allah. It is an opportunity for any Muslim who makes the most of their time in this blessed month to become a beloved close servant of Allah. Yet many of us are confounded as to how to derive the most spiritual benefit from this blessed month. Ramadan is more than tarawih, recitation of Qur’an, and fasting. It is a time to gain closeness with Allah and to remove the accumulated effects of sins, bad environments, and our ghafla (forgetfulness of Allah) throughout the year. It provides a beautiful spiritual curriculum for gaining closeness with Allah by retreating into the house of Allah, breaking our ties and connections with the world, and spending our time in meditation and devotions. This book presents the example of how one of the greatest hadith scholars of the past century, Shaikh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya, and other notable scholars, left their religious duties of teaching Qur’an and hadith to devote their time in austere devotion and worship of Allah in the blessed month. Despite his busy schedule and scholarly work of hadith, Shaikh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya devoted the whole month of Ramadan to connect those who came to sit in his pious company with Allah and to ignite the flame of love of Allah, love for the Blessed Prophet (peace be upon him), and perpetual remembrance of Allah in their lives. This book is an excellent firsthand account of how the great scholars of Islam utilized each moment of this blessed month. It is an inspirational and motivational book which will, inshallah, change the way we view and utilize the blessed month of Ramadan.
6) Tradition and Future of Islamic Education by Wilna A.J. Meijer
The relation between Islam and the West is the topic of an ongoing debate. The debate often leaves us with a choice between two mutually exclusive worlds: the modern West with its enlightenment and science and accompanying secular education, or else Islam and Islamic education, characterised by orthodoxy and tradition.
In the hope of promoting dialogue instead of polarisation, the author, a philosopher of education trained in the West, searches for the ideas and ideals of education, schooling and learning within Islam. Wherever knowledge and learning have blossomed, education, schooling and teaching must have flourished, too. Whivh educational culture was part of the highly developed intellectual culture of classical Islam?
Current-day modernist Muslim intellectuals take inspiration from this rich intellectual tradition of Islam. The perspective on the future of Islamic education in the modern context, in which the book results, utilizes their ideas. Hermeneutics, the theory of interpretation, is applied to the rereading and reinterpretation of the source texts of Islam. Hermeneutics also offers an inspiring perspective on an education that strikes the balance between tradition and enlightenment.
7) The Virtues of the Prophet and His Nation by Yusuf al-Nabahani
Translated in English with accompanying Arabic script, this edition also includes:
- Ḥadīth referencing
- Charted-appendix on the 99 names of the Prophet (peace be upon him),
- Charted-appendix on the pure lineage of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
- Article and poem on the blessed sandals of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
8) The Virtues of Sending Prayers on the Prophet by Yusuf al-Nabahani
The greatest source of mercy Allāh has given to mankind is Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), ‘the mercy to the worlds’. Almighty Allāh informs us that not only is He Himself perpetually sending blessings unto the Prophet (peace be upon him), but His angels are perpetually asking him to do so as well. He then has instructed every believer to invoke His blessings upon the Prophet (peace be upon him) and to send salutations unto the him in the following passage:
“Indeed, Allāh confers blessing upon the Prophet and His angels invoke Him to do so. O you who believe, invoke divine blessings upon him and salute him with peace.” (Sūrat al-Aḥzāb 33:56)
Yet, scholars explicitly state that our invoking blessings upon Prophet (peace be upon him) does not benefit him, since he will be forever honoured as the Beloved of Allāh and His perfect creation. Rather, our invoking blessings upon him simply benefit us and us alone. This book endeavours to elucidate those benefits.
Translated in plain English accompanied with its original Arabic script, this publication is a concentration of Imam al-Sakhāwī’s masterpiece entitled Qawl al-Badīʿ. It includes:
· The importance of sending peace and blessings on the Prophet (peace be upon him)
· The linguistic and spiritual meanings of ‘peace’ and ‘blessings’
· The Qurʾānic directive to send peace and blessings
· The Prophet’s own command to the believers to send peace and blessings upon him
· The spiritual benefits and rewards of sending peace and blessings;
· The Prophet’s hearing and responding to this greeting and,
· Simple ḥadīth referencing.
This work will be essential for those attending gatherings of remembrance (dhikr), conferences on the Prophet’s biography (sīrah), and for all Muslims in general to call to mind the Islamic centrality of sending blessings and peace upon the greatest man of all time, Muḥammad (peace be upon him).
9) How to Live the Life of the Prophet by Omar Subedar
Every so often we are told in speeches and sermons that as Muslims, we are to listen to Allāh and emulate His Prophet, Muḥammad (peace be upon him). The question that lingers in the minds of many though is, “How am I to listen to Allāh and follow Allāh’s Messenger (peace be upon him) in this day and age?”
How to live the Life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been prepared to help answer this very question. This book offers a handy set of guidelines that address our daily issues and habits. It has been prepared in plain English, is accessible to the average Muslim, is easy to apply, and cites a reference for every point.
This book has been prepared to motivate readers to take the first step in gaining Allāh’s proximity. It is not a technical reference on Islamic law (fiqh), nor does it encompass the complete teachings of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him). It is simply a beginner’s guide to adopting the prophetic traditions (sunnah) in your life.
10) The History of the Four Caliphs by Muhammad al-Khudari Bak al-Bajuri
four caliphs of Islam, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, who because of their rectitude, became known as the “Rightly Guided Caliphs” (may Allah be pleased with them). The author provides a clear and fast-paced account of the battles and internal struggles of the four caliphs, as well as that of the fifth, Hasan ibn Ali. He avoids long excursions into the technical intricacies and obscure historical detail found in longer books. However, he refreshingly puts forward a balanced and convincing analysis of the contentious issues involving the four caliphs, such as Ali ibn Abi Talibs .delay in giving the pledge, the insurgency against Uthman, the battles of the Camel and Siffin, and the disputes between Ali and Muawiya. (may Allah be pleased with them all). The author’s analysis leaves the reader with a clear understanding and helps to increase the love and respect for the Prophet of Allah and his Companions. This book will surely satisfy your curiosity about the immediate period after the Prophet’s (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) departure from this world. It will relieve your heart of any confusion you feel about the events of that time. This is a book written for readers of any age, hence an inspiring read for the young and old alike.
11) Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges
Revolutions come in waves and cycles. We are again riding the crest of a revolutionary epic, much like 1848 or 1917, from the Arab Spring to movements against austerity in Greece to the Occupy movement. In Wages of Rebellion, Chris Hedges—who has chronicled the malaise and sickness of a society in terminal moral decline in his books Empire of Illusion and Death of the Liberal Class—investigates what social and psychological factors cause revolution, rebellion, and resistance. Drawing on an ambitious overview of prominent philosophers, historians, and literary figures he shows not only the harbingers of a coming crisis but also the nascent seeds of rebellion. Hedges’ message is clear: popular uprisings in the United States and around the world are inevitable in the face of environmental destruction and wealth polarization.
Focusing on the stories of rebels from around the world and throughout history, Hedges investigates what it takes to be a rebel in modern times. Utilizing the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, Hedges describes the motivation that guides the actions of rebels as “sublime madness” — the state of passion that causes the rebel to engage in an unavailing fight against overwhelmingly powerful and oppressive forces. For Hedges, resistance is carried out not for its success, but as a moral imperative that affirms life. Those who rise up against the odds will be those endowed with this “sublime madness.”
From South African activists who dedicated their lives to ending apartheid, to contemporary anti-fracking protests in Alberta, Canada, to whistleblowers in pursuit of transparency, Wages of Rebellion shows the cost of a life committed to speaking the truth and demanding justice. Hedges has penned an indispensable guide to rebellion.
12) Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
#1 New York Times bestselling author, the incomparable Michael Crichton (“One of the great storytellers of our age” —Newsday) takes to the high Caribbean seas for an irresistible adventure of swashbuckling pirates, lost treasure, sword fights, duplicity, and hair-breadth escapes in the New World.
13) The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
In this evocative study of the fall of the Mughal Empire and the beginning of the Raj, award-winning historian William Dalrymple uses previously undiscovered sources to investigate a pivotal moment in history. The last Mughal emperor, Zafar, came to the throne when the political power of the Mughals was already in steep decline. Nonetheless, Zafar—a mystic, poet, and calligrapher of great accomplishment—created a court of unparalleled brilliance, and gave rise to perhaps the greatest literary renaissance in modern Indian history. All the while, the British were progressively taking over the Emperor’s power. When, in May 1857, Zafar was declared the leader of an uprising against the British, he was powerless to resist though he strongly suspected that the action was doomed. Four months later, the British took Delhi, the capital, with catastrophic results. With an unsurpassed understanding of British and Indian history, Dalrymple crafts a provocative, revelatory account of one the bloodiest upheavals in history.
14) Nukhbat al-Fikar and Al-Tadhkirah translation by Musa Furber
This volume presents two primers on the discipline of hadith nomenclature (mustalah al-hadith) and the authentication of transmitted reports. They areNukhbat al-fikar (“Chosen Thoughts on the Nomenclature of Hadith Experts”) by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (773-835AH); and Al-Tadhkirah (“The Memorandum”) by Ibn al-Mulaqqin (723-804AH). These primers were written to facilitate speedy mastery of the discipline’s core material. Although the primers focus on definitions, they also include methods for addressing problems specific to the topic. Students would often commit a primer to memory while studying it with a living master who would explain its content in detail and demonstrate its application. It is through this interaction between students and instructors that Islamic education transmits both knowledge and skills across generations. In translation, these primers are ideal for English-speaking instructors looking for a primary text covering the subject’s core concepts. The translations will also benefit students looking to review their lessons or to prepare themselves for more advanced studies.
15) Forensic Psychiatry in Islamic Jurisprudence by Kutaiba S. Chaleby
This is the first book in Forensic Psychiatry that focuses on the application of psychiatry to legal issues connected with Islamic jurisprudence. Holding a unique position amongst the world s religions in its containment of every aspect of human existence, it is openly natural for Islam to govern both the spiritual and legislative aspects of life. This work will appeal to both the general as well as the academic reader drawing important and wide-ranging conclusions relevant for many individuals and societies in the Islamic world.
16) Manāhil al-ʿIrfān by Muhammad ‘Abd Al-‘Azim al-Zarqani
17) Naẓarāt Jadīdah fī ʿUlūm al-Ḥadīth by Ḥamzah al-Malībārī
18) Wasāʾil al-Wuṣūl ilā Shamāʾil al-Raṣūl by Yūsuf al-Nabahānī
19) Uṣūl al-Fiqh al-Islāmī by Shākir Bak al-Ḥanbalī
20) Mere Khalīl by Muhammad Ishfaq Allah Wajid Mujaddidi
21) Tarikh wa Tadhkirah Khanqah Sirajiyyah Muhammad Nazir Ranjha
22) Maqam Sahabah by Muhammad Shafi’ ‘Uthmani