Swedish Islam

What constitutes a barrier preventing Islam from being an indigenous religion in Sweden?

When writing about Islam in the West the most compelling topic must be its relations to our post-modern society, in which respect Sweden is certainly at the forefront. But, how can Muslims, who clearly represent a pre-modern culture, have something to say about post-modernity and its particular issues?

In the famous encounter of the Muslims with the Greeks, they engaged with Aristotle, and largely absorbed and internalised his thinking, but the Enlightenment didn’t touch the Muslim world until colonial times and, while the West quickly moved through the turbulent waters of modernity to post-modernity, the Muslims largely seem still to be floundering in refusal of modernity or, on the contrary, are infatuated with it and with outmoded ideas of state and society. They are apparently ruled in their own countries by grotesque tyrants or are living in nominal democracies in which nepotism reins, or the army or both. All of this appears to culminate in the so-called ‘Islamic State’ which is like the worst barbarities of the French Revolution on steroids.

The fallout from this appalling situation, and, it must be said, from the deluded foreign policies of the great powers, is the tide of displaced migrants and refugees who wash up on our shores. Many of them are recent incomers from provinces and villages to great megalopolises, a transformation that in their countries is happening in an incredibly foreshortened time-scale in comparison to its historical development in Europe.

So, given what is an increasingly turbulent time and an influx of Muslims who are often the objects of extreme forms of that turbulence, and indeed sometimes themselves active propagators of it, what useful input can we expect from Muslims in Sweden, and by extension in the world today?

Retracing our civilisational thread back to the common base of Aristotle, contrary to perception of Islam as a ‘religion’ with a shari’a law, the longstanding Muslim tradition is of a tripartite division of knowledge into rational, empirical and revealed knowledge. The revelation is consonant with the Judaeo-Christian revelations, commenting on it and adjusting it in places. Each of the three divisions is rigorously thought through within its own domain and yet all three have been thought through to be consistent with each other and this is an ongoing project in each generation. So perhaps one contribution Muslims might make to our post-modern world is this axiomatic understanding of the essential unity of knowledge, something long lost in our deeply fragmented age.

As the discourse in our own societies is increasingly polarised into the dualism of right and left to a degree that clearly threatens the very stability of the age, it might be that the Muslims could bring, not ‘the answers to our problems’, but a sense of this unity to the civilisational conversation. We are in much more need of a conversation of civilisations than Huntingdon’s infamous Clash of Civilisation.

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Abdassamad Clarke is from Ulster and was formally educated at Edinburgh University in Mathematics and Physics, and in Cairo in Arabic and tajwid and other Islamic sciences. He accepted Islam at the hands of Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi in 1973. In the 80s he was secretary to the imam of the Dublin Mosque, and in the early 90s imam khatib of the Norwich Mosque, where he is currently an imam and teacher. He has translated the Muwatta of Imam Muhammad by Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani (jointly with Muhammad Abdarrahman), which was published by Turath Publishing at the end of July 2004 and a number of other works from Arabic: al-Qawl al-mu'tamad fi mashru'iyyat adh-dhikr bi'l-ism al-mufrad by Shaykh al-Alawi on the standing in Shari’ah of using the divine name in dhikr, which was published by Diwan Press as first part of The Two Invocations and since republished by Madinah Press, The History of the Khalifahs (the chapters on the Khulafa ar-Rashidun from as-Suyuti’s Tarikh al-Khulafa), the Complete Forty Hadith (translation of Imam an-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith along with the Imam’s explanation of their fiqh and linquistic usages) and Kitab al-Jami’ by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (published as A Madinan View), Rijal – narrators of the Muwatta of Imam Muhammad, all published by Ta-Ha Publishers of London, Kitab al-athar by Imam Abu Hanifah and transmitted by Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani (Turath Publishing 2006), The Compendium of Knowledge and Wisdom (a translation of Jami' al-'ulum wa'l-hikam by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, published by Turath Publishing 2007). In addition he has edited Aisha Bewley's translation of Ibn Hajar's abridgement of at-Targhib wa't-Tarhib, Ibn Taymiyyah's al-Kalim at-Tayyib both published by the UK Islamic Academy, Dr Asadullah Yate's translation of al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, published by Ta-Ha Publishing and a number of other works. He is currently engaged with Suád Østergaard on a translation of the Qur’an into Danish, the first volume of which translated in collaboration with Jakob Werdelin, comprising Surat al-Fatihah, Surat al-Baqarah and Surah Ali ‘Imran, was recently published as Den gavmilde Qur’an: en fremlægning of de tre første suraer by Havens Forlag of Copenhagen. Translations yet to be published include Traditions of the Sunnah (Athar as-sunan) by Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Ali an-Nimawi (jointly with Mawlana In'amuddin), to be published by Turath Publishing Ltd. Among his unpublished translations are the Sciences of Tafsir comprising portions of Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi’s Qur’anic commentary at-Tashil li ‘ulum at-tanzil, in particular his introductory sections on the essential elements of the sciences necessary for tafsir. He is author of a number of children’s books, The Year of the Elephant, The Great Victory and The Last Battle all of which are on the sirah of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, as well as The Story of Stories about the Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, in which he drew a great deal on the commentary of Ibn Juzayy, may Allah be merciful to him. He has also a poem God is Dead published in the Minaret journal of Stockholm, Sweden, and an as-yet unpublished collection of short stories called Tales Are Like That, and a novel called The Wings of the Butterfly. Abdassamad is a teacher of both adults and children in Qur’an recitation (tajwid) and meanings, Arabic language and the deen in general, most recently having organised and taken part in a conference under the auspices of Islamic Events of London on the History of the Islamic Khalifate, and having given discourses in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Jena, Weimar, Copenhagen and the Midlands. 18 April, 2007 0:03

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