Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop / Edition 1

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Crucial to understanding Islam is a recognition of the role of Muslim networks. The earliest networks were Mediterranean trade routes that quickly expanded into transregional paths for pilgrimage, scholarship, and conversion, each network complementing and reinforcing the others. This volume selects major moments and key players from the seventh century to the twenty-first that have defined Muslim networks as the building blocks for Islamic identity and social cohesion.

Although neglected in scholarship, Muslim networks have been invoked in the media to portray post-9/11 terrorist groups. Here, thirteen essays provide a long view of Muslim networks, correcting both scholarly omission and political sloganeering. New faces and forces appear, raising questions never before asked. What does the fourteenth-century North African traveler Ibn Battuta have in common with the American hip hopper Mos Def? What values and practices link Muslim women meeting in Cairo, Amsterdam, and Atlanta? How has technology raised expectations about new transnational pathways that will reshape the perception of faith, politics, and gender in Islamic civilization?

This book invokes the past not only to understand the present but also to reimagine the future through the prism of Muslim networks, at once the shadow and the lifeline for the umma, or global Muslim community.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fascinating read and will inform as much as it generates discussion, both within and outside the classroom."
Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"An interesting collection that deserves attentive reading."
The Telegraph-Calcutta

"miriam cooke and Bruce Lawrence have succeeded in organizing and leading a scholarly assessment of the social context of formation and dynamics of Muslim networks in a historical perspective full of contemporary relevance. This is indispensable material for understanding the cultural and religious dynamics of our interdependent world. (Manuel Castells, University of Southern California, Los Angeles)"

"The articles in this book make the most important point that not only in pre-modern times was the Islamic world profoundly interconnected but that connections of this kind have persisted, and have remained of the utmost significance into the contemporary era. It is a point that should inform all modern policy considerations. (Francis Robinson, Royal Holloway, University of London)"

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807855881
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 3/7/2005
  • Series: Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 1,125,992
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

miriam cooke, professor of Arabic literature at Duke University, is author of Women Claim Islam: Creating Islamic Feminism through Literature and the novel Hayati, My Life.

Bruce B. Lawrence is Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor and professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. He is author of New Faiths, Old Fears: Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Ibn Battuta's opportunism : the networks and loyalties of a medieval Muslim scholar 31
2 A networked civilization? 51
3 The network metaphor and the mosque network in Iran, 1978-1979 69
4 The scope and limits of Islamic cosmopolitanism and the discursive language of the 'Ulama' 84
5 The problem of Islamic art 107
6 Sacred narratives linking Iraqi Shiite women across time and space 132
7 The Islamic salon : elite women's religious networks in Egypt 155
8 Voices of faith, faces of beauty : connecting American Muslim women through Azizah 169
9 Ideological and technological transformations of contemporary Sufism 191
10 The Salafi movement : violence and the fragmentation of community 208
11 Defining Islamic interconnectivity 235
12 Wiring up : the Internet difference for Muslim networks 252
13 A new research agenda : exploring the transglobal hip hop umma 264
Afterword 275
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First Chapter

Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop

The University of North Carolina Press

Copyright © 2004 The University of North Carolina Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8078-2923-4

Chapter One

Ibn Battuta's Opportunism The Networks and Loyalties of a Medieval Muslim Scholar

Vincent J. Cornell

American university students, exposed for the first time to the travel memoir (rihla) of the fourteenth-century Moroccan scholar Ibn Battuta, typically have three reactions. First, they are amazed at the wanderlust of a man whose journeys occupied nearly half of his life and who did not rest until he had seen most of the known world from Morocco to China. Second, they disapprove of his apparent callousness toward women; he marries and divorces a series of spouses across Asia, leaving a string of children in his wake. The impression of callous machismo is reinforced by certain statements that Ibn Battuta himself makes in his narrative, as when he says of the women of the Maldives: "All of these products of the coco-palm and the fish which they live on have an amazing and unparalleled effect in sexual intercourse, and the people of these islands perform wonders in this respect. I had there myself four wives, and concubines as well, and I used to visit all of them every day and pass the night with the wife whose turn it was, and this I continued to do the whole year and a half that I was there" (Gibb 1958-2000, 4:823-24). Finally, students react negatively to Ibn Battuta's opportunism and self-promotion. Like a medieval carpetbagger, this scholar, whom Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani (d. 1448) described as having only "a modest share of the sciences," marketed himself as a noted specialist in Maliki jurisprudence and attained important posts in the governments of several states without remaining for very long in any of them. Why, students ask, was Ibn Battuta so self-aggrandizing and cavalier toward his employers? Where was his sense of citizenship? Where was his sense of loyalty?

Few subjects better illustrate the conceptual gulf that separates the resident of a medieval Muslim state from the modern citizen of a nation-state than the issues of identity and loyalty. The citizen of a nation-state sees herself as belonging to an entity that transcends the most basic familial and social ties. Ideally, at least, the identity of a national citizen is bound up with shared notions of homeland in a territory defined by mutually recognized and contiguous borders, a common government, a common language, common customs, often a common religion, and a sense of social union that represents the norms and expectations of those who see themselves as sharing the same idea of "nationhood." This sense of nationhood is reinforced by symbolic tokens such as a flag, diplomatic recognition, a national army, and membership in international organizations such as the United Nations.

By contrast, Ibn Battuta, like other intellectuals in medieval Europe and the Muslim world, had no such idea of citizenship. The imagined communities that he saw himself as part of were both more vast and more parochial than the modern concept of a nation. He was never a Moroccan, because there was no nation of Morocco during his lifetime. Apart from his Islamic identity, which was a complex construction in itself, Ibn Battuta's primary loyalties and identities could be understood almost entirely through his name: Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad ibn 'Abdallah ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Yusuf al-Luwati al-Tanji. His civic identity was defined by the locale in which he was born (the city of Tangiers in the northern part of what was then called al-Maghrib al-Aqsa, "the Far West"), and his personal loyalties were defined almost exclusively by kinship. First, he was a member of the Luwata Berber tribe that had occupied the region of Tangiers since Roman times. More specifically, he was the descendant of an honorable line of local jurists, whose names would have been known to any native of Tangiers that he might have met in his travels. To the end of his life, he would have referred to himself primarily as a Tanjawi by origin, from an old and respected family, and tied by kinship to a lineage that confirmed his status as one of the notables ('ayan) of his native city. In a way that would be understood by residents of the American South, Ibn Battuta was an "original family" notable from a bloodline that had long counted in civic affairs, not unlike the inhabitants of the Greek polis for whom Aristotle's theories of government and ethics were formulated. Like Mario Puzo's Don Domenico Clericuzio in The Last Don, his loyalty was to "the creatures of his blood first; his God second ... and third, his obligation to the subjects in the domain of [his] ... family.... [The] government ... never entered the equation" (1996, 59-60). His network was socially defined but politically anodyne.

"Our Thing" I: Racketeering and Instrumentalism in the Medieval Muslim State

The foregoing reference to a contemporary novel about the Mafia suggests ways in which Muslim networks are not unique in their function. Ibn Battuta, like Don Domenico Clericuzio, would have had good reasons not to let the government enter into the loyalty equation. With regard to the state and its functions, medieval Muslim notables resembled Mafia dons in the same way that governmental ethics paralleled Mafia-style instrumentalism. In an important article written about twenty years ago, the historical sociologist Charles Tilly remarked, "If protection rackets represent organized crime at its smoothest, then war making and state making-quintessential protection rackets with the advantage of legitimacy-qualify as our largest examples of organized crime" (1985, 169). The medieval state, whether in Europe or in the Muslim world, was a coercive enterprise that was based on the concept of protection as business. In the Muslim world, barely fifty years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, social realities and the necessities of statecraft overrode the egalitarian principles of the Quran and the early Islamic community of Medina. By Ibn Battuta's time, the dominant form of government was the sultanate. The Arabic term sultan means "one who exercises power (sulta)," or, in more colloquial terms, "strongman" or "dictator." Sultans and their officials ruled over a populace that was designated as al-ra'iya, "the flock." The flock needed the sultan and his army for protection against local violence and external invasion. This army was not a professional army in the modern sense; it consisted of tribal warriors related by kinship or ethnicity to the sultan, a special class of slave-soldiers known as mamluks (individual strongmen and their retinues) who owed the sultan their personal loyalty. In return for being protected by these military forces, the flock paid taxes-assessed in land, money, or labor-that supported the sultan and his army and bestowed legitimacy upon them. This relationship was expressed in a formula known as the circle of equity, which owed its origins to the paradigmatic sultanate of the Seljuq Turks, who ruled over Central Asia, Iran, and Iraq in the eleventh century c.e. (r. 1038-1157). The formula reads as follows (Itzkowitz 1972, 88):

1. There can be no royal authority without the military.

2. There can be no military without wealth.

3. The flock produces the wealth.

4. The sultan cares for the flock by promoting justice.

5. Justice requires harmony in the world.

6. The world is a garden, and its walls are the state.

7. The support of the state is Islamic law (shari'a).

8. There is no support for Islamic law without the military.

Apologists for this system, which remained dominant in the Muslim world until the nineteenth century, justified its existence in terms of the need for protection against external enemies. Sometimes, this argument was combined with the argument that the sultanate protected and extended the reach of Islamic law, so that the sultanate could pass itself off as a "jihad state" that represented the political and military interests of Islam in a particular region. But most of the time, the circle of equity was used as a convenient excuse for the state to create its own means of self-justification, and it obscured the fact that the greatest threat to the flock was often the state itself. The circle of equity was not a circle of equality, and those privileged within its network were those who benefited from its hierarchical structure. Muslim populations suffered as the result of overtaxation and other predatory practices on the part of the state and its officials even more than they did at the hands of external invaders. As Charles Tilly observed, "Someone who produces both the danger and, at a price, the shield against it is a racketeer" (1985, 170-71). Thus, according to Tilly's definition of racketeering, the medieval Islamic sultanate could legitimately be seen as a protection racket, and la cosa nostra, "our thing" for the sultan and his military commanders, was a Mafia-like enterprise with the sultan as il padrone, the chief patron or "godfather."

The key to running a successful protection racket is to strike a balance such that the extortionate demands of the racketeer are not so great as to drive his clients to seek "protection" from someone else. Patronage quickly loses its value if the cost of maintaining the patron drives one to ruin. There is an unspoken reciprocity in such arrangements, whereby the client expects the patron to provide a sufficient return of protection or other useful services as recompense for his investment. Just as the patron may make the client "an offer he can't refuse," so the client, in the long run, may maintain expectations that the wise patron cannot refuse either. To put it another way, a sultan, in his role as chief patron, must act as a husbandman over his flock. Even if he chooses to be an absentee patron who entrusts his flock to "shepherds" such as military governors and tax officials, he must see to it that the flock is cared for in such a way as to maximize long-term profitability over short-term gain. In actual practice, justice in the fourteenth-century Islamic world was a matter of perception and was negotiable, at least up to a point. Practical justice depended on a Hobbesian balance of competing self-interests in which the level of maintenance required for the sultan and his retinue plus the maintenance required by the military and local officials was not so great that the flock lost its means of livelihood. Intelligent sultans and their officials were aware that hopelessness could constitute a serious disincentive to the production of wealth. The failure of the state's enterprise could come quickly if the flock realized that its sheepdogs were really wolves.

Despite the fact that medieval Muslim reformers often decried the exploitative nature of state formation and state maintenance, the basic premises of the system were seldom challenged on the ground. Acknowledgement of the status quo is amply illustrated in books of Islamic jurisprudence, in which the issue of property expropriation (ghasb) by the state constitutes a major subcategory of legal practice. Most of the time, however, the principle of the inalienability of property ownership was honored more in its breach than in its observance.

The reciprocal nature of the relationship between the sultan and his flock was also acknowledged in theological and moral writings. The Spanish Sufi Ibn al-'Arabi (d. 1240), who was born to a family of notables from Murcia and who demonstrates upper-class values in his works, saw the reciprocity that characterized relations between patrons and clients as mirroring the reciprocity that pertained between God and the world. This reciprocity, which Ibn al-'Arabi termed "mutual exploitation" (taskhir), meant that although a higher order of being or social status (such as God or the sultan) might exploit or subjugate the lower orders (humanity or the flock), a lower order might also "exploit" or constrain a higher order (Izutsu 1983, 182-86). According to Ibn al-'Arabi, higher orders subjugate lower orders through an act of will (taskhir bi-l-irada); this is part of the nature of things. God exploits humans so that they serve him; humans exploit animals, plants, and minerals for shelter and sustenance; animals exploit plants for sustenance; and plants exploit minerals. But the divine economy of justice also imposes a "return" on this exploitation, for if exploitation were unrequited, the moral balance of the universe would be upset. Thus the lower orders have the right to exploit or constrain the higher orders by virtue of their subservient status (taskhir bi-l-hal). Ibn al-'Arabi describes this type of reciprocal exploitation by using the example of a sultan and his subjects, thus demonstrating that he sees a congruence between the social hierarchies of human beings and the natural hierarchies of existence:

The taskhir is of two kinds. The first is a taskhir which occurs by the will of the "exploiter" (musakhkhir) who subdues by force the "exploited" (musakhkhar). This is exemplified by the exploitation exercised by a master over his slave, though both are equal in their humanity. Likewise the exploitation exercised by a Sultan over his subjects in spite of the fact that the latter are equal to him as far as their humanity is concerned. The Sultan exploits them by virtue of his rank.

The second kind is the taskhir by the "state" or "situation"; like the taskhir exercised by the subjects over their king who is charged with the task of taking care of them, e.g., defending and protecting them, fighting the enemies who attack them, and preserving their wealth and their lives, etc. In all these things, which are the taskhir by the state, the subjects "subjugate" their sovereign. In reality, however, this should be called the taskhir of the "position" (martaba), because it is the "position" that compels the king to act in that way.... Thus, in this sense, the whole world acts by its very "state" as a "constrainer" which constrains the One who is impossible (on the level of common sense) to be called "constrained."

Justice in the medieval Muslim world was more about proportionality than equality. The root meaning of 'adl, the Arabic word for justice, does not connote equality in the sense of sameness, but rather conveys the idea of equalizing, or restoring balance. As such, it has much in common with the Classical Greek word for justice, dikaiosune, which carries the connotation of fairness rather than equality (MacIntyre 1998, 11). This similarity of meaning was not lost on early Muslim philosophers and jurists, who saw in 'adl and the related term haqq Aristotle's notion of distributive justice.


Excerpted from Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop Copyright © 2004 by The University of North Carolina Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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