Making Sense of Muslim History and Society
Akbar S. Ahmed
from the Preface
In two seminars held in Islamabad in 1985 when presenting some of the ideas in this book I cited the Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the Islamic scholar Maulana Mawdoodi. I was criticized by the distinguished ‘rightist’ scholars present for the former (‘godless communist’) and ‘leftists’ for the latter (‘agent of Western imperialism’). Neither side was prepared to conduct a dialogue or attempt to understand the other point of view. Western scholars at the seminar criticized me for being too ‘Islamic’, some Muslims for not being Islamic enough. As I believe Islam to be the middle path—the Quranic ummah-i-wast, the middle nation or, to echo Imam Khomeini, nah sharq nah gharb, neither East nor West—and that a Muslim must steer a middle course I was unrepentant. This book will no doubt arouse similar reactions; its middle position will thereby be vindicated.
The material is largely based on seminars given between 1982 and 1985, and what I learned from discussions with colleagues at various academic centres in Harvard, Princeton, Moscow, Delhi, Jeddah, Tokyo, Istanbul, London, Islamabad and Paris. I would like to acknowledge their hospitality and support.