Book review - Travelling Home: Essays on Islam in Europe
Travelling Home: Essays on Islam in Europe by Abdal Hakim Murad is a forceful study of Islamophobia in Europe, considering survival strategies for Muslims on the basis of Qur’an, Hadith, and the Islamic theological, legal and spiritual legacy.
How should we react to the new Islamophobic movements now spreading in the West?
Everywhere the far right is on the march, with nationalist and populist parties thriving on the back of popular anxieties about Islam and the Muslim presence.
Hijab and minaret bans, mosque shootings, hostility to migrants and increasingly scornful media stereotypes seem to endanger the prospects for friendly coexistence and the calm uplifting of Muslim populations.
In this series of essays Abdal Hakim Murad dissects the rise of Islamophobia on the basis of Muslim theological tradition.
Although the proper response to the current impasse is clearly indicated in Qur’an and Hadith, some have lost the principle of trust in divine wisdom and are responding with hatred, fearfulness or despair.
Murad shows that a compassion-based approach, rooted in an authentic theology of divine power, could transform the current quagmire into a bright landscape of great promise for Muslims and their neighbours.
“Dust off your dictionary and dive in! Travelling Home is a wild, invigorating and delightfully erudite ride through the political, social, psychological, theological and semantic landscape of European Islam as it is now. Pitched at a Muslim readership, this collection of essays forms in aggregate a brilliant and incisive analysis of the position of Muslims in a Europe ‘surging rapidly in a nationalist direction’ with their indigenous Muslim populations ‘viewed by increasing numbers as a Dark Other fit only to be securitised and stigmatised, and perhaps, in the dreams of some, banished from Europe’s walled garden.’
More importantly, the book proposes a new, constructive approach. The author, who has been on the frontlines of Muslim affairs in Europe for the better part of thirty years, makes a forceful and nuanced argument for a return to a ‘traditional Islam’ which employs, ‘the cumulative wisdom of the Muslim centuries in all its amplitude’ in an attempt ‘to devise an uncompromising theory of Islamic belonging in the European homeland of the late modern melée’.
In the process he takes aim at, well, just about everyone, and he takes no prisoners. European Islamophobes in ‘an already confused Europe’, Islamists, Muslim extremists redefined as tanfiris – those who make Islam repellent, ‘the continued prominence of race-temple Islam in [ethnocentric] community leadership’ and Muslim leaders ‘whose highest ambition is to have their photograph taken beside an MP’ are all taken out in this scathing and witty take down of the real barriers to positive change. In practice, he posits, Muslims need to replace a ‘reactive identity-religion with its desire for status and revenge driven by ego’ and an externalised Islam, with a revival of the awareness of the ‘presence, power and compassion of God’ in the profound and quintessential tradition of Islamic spirituality.
Travelling Home is an essential and exhilarating read.”
— MICHAEL SUGICH, author of Hearts Turn and Signs on the Horizons.
“Probably the most important book ever published by a European Muslim scholar. Traditionally enlightened, mercifully uncompromising with the truth, intellectually and spiritually challenging, these eleven essays show the way forward in a dark and dangerous age. A must-read for ‘those who use reason,’ Muslim or other.”
— YAHYA MICHOT, emeritus Professor of Islamic Studies at Hartford Theological Seminary, author of Ibn Taymiyya: Muslims under Non-Muslim Rule.
“Travelling Home is a unique book which combines spiritual testimony with sharp insights on the current condition of Islam and Muslims in the West. It is written from the heart and is a magnificent example of the tremendous resources of the Islamic tradition to respond to the challenges of extremism, terrorism populism and islamophobia. The author provides a unique perspective to guide the new Muslim generations by showing that moral strength and search for beauty are more powerful than retaliation and anger if one is to be and remain in the Path of God. It is also a must-read for all the Europeans who struggle to make sense of the reality and legitimacy of Muslims in their midst.”
— JOCELYNE CESARI, Professor of Religion and Politics at the University of Birmingham, author of What is Political Islam and Muslims in the West after 9/11.
‘Although primarily aimed at Muslims – the core message is the need for Muslims to find resources within their religion that can make them a force for good in Europe – the book is an equally important read for European policymakers and media to help them better understand Muslim communities and the plurality of voices within Islam, and to appreciate that Islam has always focused on adapting to the local context. Murad highlights the latter by referring to the Qur’anic verse ‘Wheresoever you may turn, there is God’s Face’ (Qur’an 3:115) in the very first paragraph of the book’s introduction, highlighting the universal message of Islam and arguing that it is not tied exclusively to one country or region. At a time when European state leaders are actively talking about the need for a European Islam that relates to European realities … Travelling Home shows that effective models for laying the foundations of a European Islam are already available.’
– JOURNAL OF MUSLIMS IN EUROPE
‘The book was an excellent and satisfying read, engaging in a much-needed and profound way with ideas that go to the heart of Muslim faith and ethics, but which are often missed or only superficially touched upon in contemporary discourses on the plight of Muslims in Europe and of Islam in the West. … A timely and important contribution to Muslims on how to navigate the worlds of tradition and modernity.’
– SACRED WEB
‘This is a hugely important book. Abdal Hakim Murad tackles many of the Muslim community’s sacred cows as well as those of European society, and offers ways out of the morass in which we find ourselves.’
– MUSLIM WORLD BOOK REVIEW