Author Meets Critics: The Sociology of Islam: Knowledge, Power and Civility by Armando SALVATORE, McGill University, Canada
The complexity of the sociological study of Islam, and particularly of its confrontation with colonial and postcolonial modernity, is nowadays a given for scholars in the broader field. This acknowledgement contrasts sharply with crass politicizations of Islam in public and media discourse. Squeezed between the need to account for complexity and pressures to simplification, the project of the sociology of Islam, inaugurated by Bryan Turner in the 1970s, sets as its task the exploration of the multiple ways through which the religious dimension that is at the core of Islamic traditions innervates a distinctive type of civilizing process encompassing the economy, politics, the arts, and the sciences.
The Sociology of Islam provides conceptual and historical signposts to this enterprise. Grounded in sociological theory and historical sociology (and laying a particular emphasis on some of the classics, like Max Weber and Norbert Elias, and more contemporary authors, like Bryan Turner, Ernest Gellner and Johann Arnason), it discusses the long-term dynamics of Islam as both a religion and as a social, political and cultural force. It focuses on how the proto‐globalization of the Islamic ecumene was characterized by intense circulation, cosmopolitan opening to other civilizational influences, and institutional flexibility.
Set in this proto-global context of production of civility, the book dissects the intersecting dimensions of knowledge production and power institutionalization. The notion of an Islamic civility becomes the key to understanding the strength and malleability, over various epochs and regions, of specific institutions, as well as the process through which they crystallized and were eroded. The two major institutions analyzed in the book are the brotherhood (tariqa) and the endowment (waqf) and their contribution to social cohesion, political mobilization, and governance. Both institutions bridged the diversity of social conditions and cultural backgrounds of distant regions of the Islamic ecumene, from Morocco to South East Asia, with Central Asia playing a crucial role in institutional creativity and transmission. And both institutions have been exposed to the curtailments and critiques of colonial and postcolonial authorities and intellectuals.