Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rauf's mysticism in "What's Right with Islam ..."

An October 7, 2010 post described Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's activism, particularly for his core purpose in life, building a bridge between the West and the nations dominated by his Islamic worldview. That post also briefly reviews his book What's Right with Islam is What's Right with America: A New Vision for Muslims in the West. The purpose of this post, the second in the series, is to briefly describe the manner in which Rauf uses his book to advocate for mysticism.

One characteristic to keep in mind while reading and evaluating his book is that it is a thoroughly religious book. (For "religion" and similar terms, see the Glossary in an Aug. 27, 2010 post.)

The intended audience is mainly religious readers:
- American Jews.
- Devout American Christians.
- American congressmen (almost all of whom loudly declare their religiosity).
- Conflicted American religious conservatives (such as George W. Bush, Rauf says).
- Generic "spiritual seekers" wondering why Islam is the fastest growing world religion.
- American feminists intrigued by the possibility that life in Saudi Arabia may be compatible with feminism.
- Young American Muslims torn between the image of Osama bin Laden on American TV versus their "sweet grandmother who sits forever on her prayer rug praying that [her grandchild] will marry a devout Muslim . . . ." (pp. xvii-xviii)

The subject of the book is religious: The need for reconciliation between the "West" (which Rauf considers to be synonymous with Judeo-Christian culture) and Islamic nations. Their common foundation in "the Abrahamic tradition" both requires and makes possible reconciliation, Rauf holds. (pp. 282-283)

The theme is religious: "Religion, which speaks to the eternal in us, must be the foundation of a robust, harmonious society and the animating principle of the whole life of a people." (p. 284)

The fundamentally religious nature of the book explains why the author does not advocate for mysticism. He assumes it. Mysticism permeates the book. Evidence of Rauf's mysticism appears throughout his book in the form of particular kinds of mysticism:
- Faith, which "refers to right beliefs about God." (p. 47)
- Revelation, for example, passing the Qur'an from God to the angel Gabriel to Muhammad. (p. 42).
- Prophecy, for example, in the roles of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. (pp. 57-58).
- Holy scripture as the ultimate authority. (p. 57)

In conclusion, Rauf has described world problems and offered solutions, but always within the context of religion in general and Islam in particular. That religious worldview permeates the book. It is a given, an ever-present premise. The essence of that worldview is that our guide to action, individually and socially, comes to us mystically from a supernatural being. The lesson here is that an advocate of mysticism need not always evangelize for it or attempt to defend it directly. In part, he can work for mysticism by mostly assuming it to be the norm.

Rauf does mention Sufism ten times. He says Sufis are "the mystics of Islam." (p. 49) Sufism will be the subject of the third and last post in this series.

Burgess Laughlin
Author, The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith


  1. Unrelated to this post, but the link near the end of your post, just after your name, that reads "The Power and the Glory..." has a slight typo in it's link.

  2. Thank you to Realist Theorist for catching a typo in the link below my signature!

    Realist Theorist's blogger profile is:

    Thank you!

    Thank you!


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