Over at islamicommentary.org, Bruce B. Lawrence introduces his new book, Who is Allah? The book is a vivid exploration that offers a unique approach to understanding the central focus of Muslim religious expression. Lawrence writes:
The very name Allah is interwoven into the everyday experience of millions of Muslims. While Allah does not belong to Muslims, Allah is supreme for Muslims. In the Islamic tradition, Allah creates, motivates, and sustains the universe as well as humankind. It is a name invoked over 2500 times in the Holy Qur’an. It is the basis of the ‘witness’ (or shahada), a creed as integral to Islam as is the Shema to Jews or baptism to Christians.
But Allah is also contested. Believing Muslims advocate the superseding power of Allah, while disbelieving or disputatious others claim Allah as the tribal deity, or moon god, of Arabs.
Is Allah the same as God in Christianity or Yahweh in Judaism? Brahmin in the Hindu tradition, and the Buddha (or Bodhisattva) in the Buddhist tradition? Yes, but that easy identity of celestial doorstops, or ultimate spiritual authorities, does not help us understand the contemporary power of Allah.
What is most needed now is to understand both the historical nuance of Allah throughout the past 1500 years and Allah’s relevance today, in 2015.
For Muslims, as for adherents of other religions, intentions as well as practices are paramount in one’s religious life. While the practice of the heart demonstrates how Allah is remembered in Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, the practice of the mind examines how theologians and philosophers have defined Allah in numerous contexts, often with conflicting aims.
It is the practice of the ear that marks the contemporary period, as we hear competing calls for jihad, or religious struggle, within the cacophony of an immensely diverse umma, the worldwide Muslim community.
And at the outset of the 21st century Allah has come to loom as large in cyberspace as in the maritime or terrestrial communities claiming Him. That new horizon of possibility—yet to be scanned—provides the leitmotif of my new book, Who is Allah?
Read Lawrence’s full essay at islamicommentary.org. Who Is Allah? will be published in April, but is available for pre-order now.