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DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR LECTURE SERIES IN WEST ASIAN STUDIES
PROFESSOR FARID ESACK, OLS
UNIVERSITY OF JOHANNESBURG
LECTURE 6 December (Thursday) 2018, 16:00 – 17:30, Building 4, Room 301
Redeeming Islam: Constructing the Good Muslim Subject in the Contemporary Study of Religion
This presentation provides a perspective and analysis of the notion of ‘redeeming Islam’ – Islam as the subject of attempts by others to save it. The paper challenges the contemporary scholarship undertaken in the academy in respect of the Study of Islam whereby the such scholarship operates within a context that endorses the agenda of Empire, particularly in regard to the construction of the ‘good Muslim’ who is consistent with contemporary notions of human rights, pluralism, non-violence and Western modes of thought and being. The ‘bad Muslim’ is one who does not endorse or support this project. The consequence of this type of scholarship is that it is uncritical and unaware of the context in which it operates as well as the historico-political legacy of Muslim societies in relation to colonialism and Western violence. In addition, it ignores the pertinent questions of poverty, sustainable development, and the voices of the marginalised - important questions for much of the Muslim and the Third World - while concentrating on questions that are framed by a Northern context.
SEMINAR 7 December (Friday) 2018, 11:00 – 12:30, Building 4, Room 301
“These Are My Daughters”:
Lot and His Offer – A Lover/Engaged Scholar Reflects on One of the Qur’an’s More Awkward Moments”
The Lot narrative has received relatively significant attention in qur’anic scholarship and tafsīr literature – both as part of the Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyā’ genre and as the foundational narrative informing Muslim ethics in relation to expressions of homo-eroticism, sodomy and, more recently, homosexuality. However, Lot’s offer of his daughters to the mob of would-be rapists attacking his home when they received news of the presence of male guests there (Q.11:78; 15:71) has received preciously little attention in qur’anic – both in early and – more surprisingly – contemporary scholarship. While a large number of characters feature in the Qur’an as emissaries of God, only the narratives about Lot and Abraham are regarded as paradigmatic for proper Muslim behavior; in the case of Lot, as the basis for Islam’s prohibition on expressions of male-male erotic behaviour and, in the case of Abraham, for the ritual re-enactment of the rites of Hajj. Lot’s offer of his daughters thus has serious implications for questions of the Qur’an’s endorsement or recognition (or otherwise) of sexual violence, women’s agency, and women as the property of men. For Muslims, Lot’s offer is further compounded by the Qur’an’s affirmation of his status as a “trustworthy messenger of God” (Q. 24:162) and, even more so, by the much latter emergence of the now largely unchallenged doctrine of the infallibility (‘iṣmah) of all Messengers of God. This presentation considers the Lot narrative with particular reference to the offer of his daughters through the lenses of an engaged scholar who grapples with the Qur’an as both a scholar and lover of the text; a scholar embedded in a multiplicity of identities and discourses and caught between a simultaneous refusal to ignore the contemporary ethical challenges that a linguistic and historical reading of the text presents, on the one hand, and an abiding love for the text on the other, a scholar-lover who is deeply skeptical of the hegemonic games masquerading as disinterested scholarship.
About the Speaker:
Farid Esack (PhD, OLS) is Professor in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. His research covers a range of topics, including Qur’anic Studies, Progressive Islam, Gender, Environmental Justice, Muslims in South Africa, and HIV, AIDS and Islam. His scholarly contribution, beside numerous articles, includes eight published books and monographs, among them Qur’an, Liberation and Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective of Interreligious Solidarity against Oppression, Oxford: Oneworld, 1997 (republished in 1999 and 2002); An Introduction to the Qur’an, Oxford: Oneworld, 2002 (republished in 2003 and 2004, translated into French and Bahasa Indonesia); On Being a Muslim: Finding a Religious Path in the World Today,Oxford: Oneworld, 1999 (republished in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2009, translated into German, Russian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Portuguese and Bahasa Indonesia); HIV, AIDS, and Islam: Reflections on Compassion, Justice and Responsibility, Cape Town: Positive Muslims, 2005 (translated into Urdu, French, Portuguese and Swahili). Professor Esack served as President of International Qur’anic Studies Association in 2015 and as Co-Chair of Contemporary Islam Section at the American Academy of Religion. Professor Esack is also a public intellectual and engaged academic, renowned for his contributions to policy making and development work. He was a Co-founder and National Coordinator of Call of Islam, South African Islamic organization committed to liberation from apartheid, gender equality, and religious pluralism. He was also a Co-founder and Director of Positive Muslims, an NGO committed to raising awareness, conducting research and supporting HIV-positive Muslims in South Africa. From 1996 to 2000 Professor Esack also served as Commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa.