Islam in America

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There is little need to reiterate the long history of U.S. governments going wherever they have wanted and doing whatever they have wanted. The question is how Muslims navigate through the political and economic architectures that ensue. Certainly, Islam has long valued extending itself throughout the world. Travel is primarily a modality for accumulating knowledge, acting on the desire to know, and then, only secondarily, is that knowledge used as a means of imbricating the "presentation" of Islam within heterogeneous settings. The historical challenge for Islamic missions, armies, scholars, traders, and sojourners was how to maintain the coherence of the faith in foreign spaces simultaneously considered within and outside of the Islamic world.

The question was how to maintain the absolute authority of Quranic guidance while propagating Islam and ruling Muslims in ways that were of necessity-if Islam was truly going to spread-highly decentralized. The practices and beliefs of foreign cultures were considered to already embody significant aspects of Islam; they were to be seen as already "leaning" toward the faith. How then to be sufficiently flexible enough to engage the particularities of worlds external to Islam so as to know them well enough to be able to steer these societies into the fullness of the faith. The question was one more of pragmatics than of essential differences between societies. For the issue was to have Islam practiced in specific ways across diverse settings so that Muslims would not only be recognizable to each other but able to use the religion to collaborate in new and unanticipated ways in all domains of life.

The present issue is the extent to many devoted Muslims have either significantly a...

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... of talking to and working with each other, of talking and working with the non-Muslim world. We must go into the world in all of its dimensions, all of its every multiplying spaces and experiences and find within them a vehicle that would allow those ideas and values that we cherish to take root. There are no formulas here, no pre-mapped practices to specify how such experimentation at interchange should be conducted. Although steeped in a very particular "American history", much can be learned from the experiences of Black Americans and the generosity of spirit which has often characterized everyday relationships between Muslims and Christians. Whatever steps we as Muslims take, we should have sufficient faith in the power of our faith to know that we will persist through this and all things. We should know that it is within our capacity to bring America to Islam.

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