A Cultural Studies Approach to Understanding Islam Essay

A Cultural Studies Approach to Understanding Islam Essay

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In today’s world, given the turmoil that sometimes seems to be caused by religious
differences, it is easy to see each religion as a monolithic entity existing separate from
other religions, and thus representing starkly polar worldviews. Often, such notions arise
as a result of not utilizing a cultural studies approach towards studying religion, which is
arguably the best approach for understanding the role of religion in one’s daily life. The
cultural studies approach, which examines the particular context in which one interprets
his or her religion, is particularly important when it comes to understanding religions like
Islam, whose adherents come from vastly different backgrounds. Through the cultural
studies approach, which is arguably much more interdisciplinary than the textual
approach, we see that one’s interpretation of religion is strongly influenced by factors
including social, political, educational, and economic aspects of life, as well as one’s
particular historical backdrop; this then makes the arts and literature a unique window by
which we can observe a particular culture’s comprehension of the religion (Infidel of
Love 10). These creative responses thus are my own response to my understanding of
Islam, and intertwined in these works, then, are not only lessons from the classroom, but
my own personal experiences, which have themselves been shaped by the economic,
social and cultural backdrop in which I have grown up.
Asides from the different cultural backdrops in which one can interpret Islam, it
is also crucial to understand the fundamental divisions that have persisted in Islam, from
Sufism, Shi’a, to Sunni groups. Understanding these different communities of
interpretation is thus cruci...


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Asani, Ali. “In Praise of Muhammad: Sindhi and Urdu Poems.” Religions of India in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Asani, Ali. Lecture: Gender and Islam. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54.

Asani, Ali. Lecture: Pillars of Islam. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54.

Asani, Ali. Lecture: Reform Revival Iran. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54.

Chelkowski, Peter. Ta’ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran. New York University Press, 1979.

Handout Week 4: The Qur’an on the Attributes of Muhammad and the Names of God.

Hussain, Rokeya Shakhawat. Sultana’s Dream and Selections from The Secluded Ones. New York: Feminist Press, 1998.

Iqbal, Mohammad. “Complaint and Answer.” Trans. By A.J. Arberry. Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon, 2003.

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