Language: English Author: Michael Wolfe
In the months after September 11, American Muslims heard the familiar sounds of Islam being defined by others. On television, from the Capitol, from the pulpit, in the classroom, and, worst of all, on videotapes from Osama bin Laden's cave, commentators, politicians, scholars, and wealthy terrorists were busily telling Muslims the "real meaning" of Islam.
Western Muslims knew something had to be done or Islam might be tarnished, even corrupted. In the past year, they have gathered informally to discuss the past, the present, and how things ought to be. Over time, they began to conceive, then voice, then, finally, put to paper ideas about how they might define Islam in this century. In the year since September 11, American Muslims began to do something extraordinary. They began to reclaim the core values of Islam.
Taking Back Islam is a bold collection of voices in the vanguard of the faith, voices of men and women who remain devout and utterly convinced of Islam's power to help create a just, ordered, and beautiful world but who are also unafraid to be critical of those who would distort Islam for violent or political ends. Many of these writers are American Muslims who benefit from a commitment to democratic pluralism as well as a commitment to Islam. "I believe in Allah and America," writes Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar. "The Qur'an has a radical message of tolerance," says Kabir Helminski. "American Muslims have a special obligation," according to Ingrid Mattson. "Many Muslims suspect that Islam's 'traditional lands' have less to teach us than they claim," writes Michael Wolfe. The unique nature and strength of these voices, fueled by a strong desire to tap the best traditions within Islam, offer hope for rescuing a faith that has been injured from within by extremists and demonized from without by Western culture. Winner of the Wilbur Award for Best Religion Book of 2003
The hadj, or sacred journey, is the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are enjoined to make once in their lifetimes. Its purpose is to detach human beings from their homelands and, by bringing them to Mecca, temporarily reinstate the equality of all people before God. One of the world’s longest-lived religious rites, the hadj has continued without break for fourteen hundred year. It is, like most things Islamic, shrouded in mystery for Westerners. In his new book, Michael Wolfe, an American-born writer and recent Muslim convert, recounts his experiences on this journey, and in the process brings readers closer to the meaning of Islam. Wolfe’s book bridges the high points of the Muslim calendar, beginning in April with the annual month-long fast of Ramadan. In Morocco, he settles into daily life with a merchant family in the ancient quarter of Marrakesh. During his three-month stay, he explores the intricate traditional life of Muslim Morocco. His accounts of this time deepen our feeling for Islam, a faith that claims one-sixth of the world’s population. As summer approaches, he travels north to Tangier, where he visits Western writers and Moroccan mystics. In June, he arrives in Mecca, a city closed to all but Muslims.
The protean experience of the hadj, and the real Mecca, that most religious and mysterious of cities, are captured in the last half of the book. Inevitably, the buildup to the Gulf War hovers in the background—the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is just weeks away. Yet it is the author’s participation in the age-old rites of the hadj that most preoccupies his thoughts, strengthening his bond to the faith he has embraced as an outsider, developing and transforming it, making it personal and alive. Not since Sir Richard Burton’s account of the pilgrimage to Mecca over a century ago has a Western writer described the hadj in such stunning and intimate detail. At a time when the eyes of the world are on Islam, The Hadj offers a perceptive and much-needed look at its human face. Praise “Wolfe lifts the veil on this ancient and sacred duty, simultaneously presenting a lively and sympathetic picture of Muslims.” —Publishers Weekly “The most engaging of travel books . . . his pilgrimage will move people of all faiths—and of none at all, because it describes a universal journey for meaning, transcendence and peace.”—The Literary Review “Wolfe has perhaps provided the clearest statement of an American Muslim since Malcolm X.”—Journal of Near Eastern Studies “It requires a special sensitivity to write well about the Hadj. . . . Michael Wolfe’s tone is exactly right.”—The Times Literary Supplement “Michael Wolfe’s straightforward, clear-sighted account takes us where only a convert could go deeply: into that vast Muslim world—‘Dar al-Islam’—which it is imperative that we come to know better. Wolfe never lectures, and certainly he does not proselytize; what we learn of faith or history or custom transpires from a beautifully plain pilgrim’s narrative full of mood, detail, color, savor, and the human encounters of every day. This is an engaging book, and I am grateful for it.”—Richard Wilbur “Michael Wolfe is a writer-adventurer in the French Romantic tradition, an ingenuous, intrepid traveler on the order of Loti and Soulie de Morant. The Hadj is a remarkable, intimate record of a unique exploit: a genuine modern odyssey to an ultimate destination. Encounter here a great quest rendered nobly and most respectfully by an outstanding storyteller.”—Barry Gifford
Edition: Book Language: English Company: Unity Productions Foundation Author: By Terry Alford
Prince Among Slaves
In 1807, an Irish ship's surgeon recognized a slave at a Mississippi produce market as the son of an African king who had saved his life many years earlier. "The Prince," as he had become known to local Natchez, Mississippi, residents, had been captured by warring tribesmen when he was 26 years old, sold to slave traders, and shipped to America. An educated, aristocratic slave, Abd Rahman Ibrahima was made overseer of the large cotton and tobacco plantation of his master, who refused to sell him to the doctor for any price. After 25 years of petitioning, Dr. Cox finally gained Ibrahima his freedom, through the intercession of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Clay.
Sixty-six-year-old Ibrahima sailed for Africa the following year, with his wife, two sons, and several grandchildren, and died there of fever just five months after his arrival. Prince Among Slaves is the first full account of Ibrahima's life, pieced together from first-person accounts and historical documents. It is not only a remarkable story, but the story of a remarkable man, who endured the humiliation of slavery without ever losing his dignity or his hope for freedom.