Today is a special day for me. In 2015, at the height of the ISIL cult’s influence in Iraq and Syria and during a time of extreme bigotry toward Muslims in the United States, I conceived a project on “Islamic Peace Studies.” The point was not to deny the violence of cult-like movements such as al-Qaeda, ISIL and the Taliban but to balance our consideration of them with an exploration of Islam’s rich history of work for peace and conciliation. Through the kindness and hard work of a band of colleagues across the world and funding from the University of Michigan’s International Institute, today it has come to fruition with the publication of our book at the IB Tauris imprint of Bloomsbury Press,
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One of the referees for the book spoke of it as potentially “field-forming,” and it is our hope that it will spark more research and writing on the topic of peace in Islam.
The book has chapters by a galaxy of the foremost writers on Islam — Asma Afsaruddin, Sherman Jackson, Elizabeth Thompson, Alexander Knysh, Zilka Siljak, Mohammad Khalil, James Rowell, Grace Yukich and Rashied Omar. I wrote a chapter on the peace verses of the Qur’an, comparing them to the Sermon on the Mount and its commentary traditions in late antique Christianity. The book treats Sufi traditions ideas about peace in Muslim modernism, from the Versailles Peace Conference after WW I to the Muslim associates of Mahatma Gandhi in British India, and from Bosnian women’s organizations working for reconciliation to Muslim charities in Trump’s America. It explores in a concerted way the rich traditions of peace work in the Muslim world, from medieval times to the present.
Bruce Lawrence at Duke University, one of our country’s great Islam specialists, observes of this new volume,
- “Nowhere has the charged topic of Islam and peace been as deftly and broadly addressed as in this collection of essays edited by the maestro of public scholarship on Islam, Juan Cole. From Qur’anic dicta to historical exemplars to modern day perspectives on fundamentalism, women and Trump, the contributors eschew easy platitudes or apologia, providing a kaleidoscope of insight that will attract the general reader as also the academic specialist.” ―Bruce B. Lawrence, Duke University, USA”
John Esposito, founder of a Center for Christian-Muslim Dialogue at Georgetown University wrote that the new book
- “is a ‘must read,’ an antidote to media and plemicists’ portrayal of Islam as a religion of war and to former President Donald Trump’s declaration that ‘Islam hates us.’ An excellent collection of scholars take the reader on a journey from the time of the Prophet Muhammad to today, underscoring the long tradition of peace that exists in contrast to the rhetoric and actions of militant movements.”
The cover description says,
- “Contrary to the distorted and in many places all-too prevalent view of Islam as somehow inherently or uniquely violent, there is a dazzling array of Muslim organizations and individuals that have worked for harmony and conciliation through history. The Qur’an itself, the Muslim scripture, is full of peace verses urging returning good for evil and wishing peace upon harassers, alongside the verses on just, defensive war that have so often been misinterpreted.
This groundbreaking volume fills a gaping hole in the literature on global peace movements, bringing to the fore the many peace movements and peacemakers of the Muslim world. From Senegalese Sufi orders to Bosnian women’s organizations to Indian Muslim freedom fighters who were allies of Mahatma Gandhi against British colonialism, it shows that history is replete with colorful personalities from the Muslim world who made a stand for peaceful methods.”