Zay Muttaqin

February 25, 2010

The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam “Talal Asad”

Filed under: Islamic Thought — E.Zaenal.Muttaqin @ 6:53 pm

Reviewed by: Entol Zaenal Muttaqin

Many works had been developed to concern the muslim societies, indeed in a term of anthropology of islam, specially dealt with the question what is Islam? What is Muslim, and wahy there should be an anthropology of Islam?. To Asad, its is easy to come up with simple answer that the object of this matter (anthropology of Islam) must be Islam, but more than that, to conceptualize Islam is hard is not that simple. Many anthropologists had failed to conceptualize Islam, some of them found diversities in representing islam as an object of study. Yet, Asad mentioned the steps to extract the teoritical problem by mentioning Gellner’s work, namely the comparison between Christianity and Islam, although its seems contrast as Becker asserted, and the distinction berween orthodox and nonorthodox.

This presenting idea from several anthropologist encountered by Asad by reflecting the idea of integrated social totality (generalization), he preferred to suggest for anthropologists begin with muslims do with a discursive tradition that wil lead to the founding of qur’an and hadits, moreover, Islam is neither distinctive nor heterogeneous of beliefs, artifacts, customs, but it is a tradition as he stated.

Next to the description of orthodoxy, the author stated differently from others. Stated critically, according to him it’s a relationship of power. Wherever muslims have the power to regulate, uphold, require, or adjust practices correctly, or to condem, and undermine the incorrect ones.

My Views on Asad’s work in this very first pages of his book is trying to analyze the term of “tradition” and conceptualizing Islam as an object of Anthropology of Islam. Again, the imperative point presented here is to analyze common faults conducted by anthropologist in Islamic society. The idea of anthropology of Islam indeed coherent, if there such a right conception of Islam in a proper trajectory.


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