What is it about?

In this article we define a new concept that has not previously been theorized: non-Muslim Islam. We argue that theories and methodologies within Islamic studies produce a hierarchy between Muslim and non-Muslim productions of Islam, prioritizing the first. However, this article highlights that Islam may be produced for other purposes than belief in a deity; Islam may for example be important in producing non-Muslim identity, politics, aesthetics, narratives, etc. We therefore argue the case for studying non-Muslim Islam, because: 1) Non-Muslim Islams play an important role in Euro-American societies and are therefore interesting in and of themselves; 2) Non-Muslim Islams have a significant impact on Muslim Islams, and thus, we will not understand Muslim Islams without a clear understanding of non-Muslim Islams; 3) It is a way of insisting on an etic research epistemology. The article ends with a discussion of ethical and strategic benefits of adopting this approach.

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Why is it important?

This article proposes a solution to the problem of how to define the object of research within Islamic studies - a solution that opens up a whole new field of research into non-Muslim productions of Islam. It insists on investigating non-Muslim productions of Islam rather than merely categorizing them as orientalism, bigotry, racism, Islamophobia, or other terms that do not explain the phenomenon and stifle further research. The article also argues that a clear distinction between Islam produced by Muslims and non-Muslims respectively may lead to more accurate representation of Muslims in Euro-American societies.

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This page is a summary of: The Case for Studying Non-Muslim Islams, Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, December 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/15700682-bja10095.
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