Cherishing One Another, Against the Odds

June 17, 2016

Cherishing One Another, Against the Odds

Lamin Sanneh

I recently finished a study of the ummah, the faith community in Sunni Islam, and in the process was struck by the emphasis in the sources on the necessity of a religious society as opposed to the idea of a religious state – the state is needed to avert anarchy, but it cannot substitute for religion as the heartbeat of civil society.1

This viewpoint is so pervasive in the sources over the centuries that I suffer something of a whiplash when I turn to the proliferating accounts in today’s media about Islam and the politics of violence. But I am not the only one surprised and impressed by this viewpoint and its contrast with the current political interpretation of Islam. Many scholars, Muslim and non-Muslim, have long noted this early history of Islam’s religious heritage, but their voices have been drowned in the strident politics of radical Islam.

1 Lamin Sanneh, Beyond Jihad: The Pacifist Tradition in West African History (Oxford University Press, July 2016).

Read the entire article in Reflections, A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry from the Yale Divinity School here