Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times

Jonathan Benthall
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This book is the fruit of twenty years’ reflection on Islamic charities, both in practical terms and as a key to understand the crisis in contemporary Islam. On the one hand Islam is undervalued as a global moral and political force whose admirable qualities are exemplified in its strong tradition of charitable giving. On the other hand, it suffers from a crisis of authority that cannot be blamed entirely on the history of colonialism and stigmatization to which Muslims have undoubtedly been subjected – most recently, as a result of the "war on terror". The book consists of seventeen previously published chapters, with a general Introduction and new prefatory material for each chapter. The first nine chapters review the current situation of Islamic charities from many different viewpoints – theological, historical, diplomatic, legal, sociological and ethnographic – with first-hand data from the United States, Britain, Israel–Palestine, Mali and Indonesia. Chapters 10 to 17 expand the coverage to explore the potential for a twenty-first century "Islamic humanism" that would be devised by Muslims in the light of the human sciences and institutionalized throughout the Muslim world. This means addressing contentious topics such as religious toleration and the meaning of jihad. The intended readership includes academics and students at all levels, professionals concerned with aid and development, and all who have an interest in the future of Islam.

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‘All one can do is draw on the widest spread of evidence available and keep an open mind' (p. 2). This approach has made Benthall a great inspiration—to many students of Muslim aid, including myself, and there is no doubt that he remains a key figure in this field. Islamic Charities and Islamic Humanism in Troubled Times, is a collection of some of Benthall's many writings, spanning the period 2005–15. These include articles, book chapters, book reviews, reports and legal statements, and serve as a good introduction to Benthall's work, both academic and non-academic, in this field.' While waiting for farther analysis, I strongly recommend Islamic Charities and Islamic Humanism in Troubled Times. It is an important contribution to the field, and its balanced, detailed and empathetic account of Muslim charities will inspire anyone engaging in studies of these organizations, their ideologies and practices.'
Marie Juul Peterson
Journal of Islamic Studies

‘A very nuanced and valuable contribution.'
November 2016

‘Given the continuing (and increasing) need for charities working within or for Muslim communities, the challenges facing Islamic charities in the current and deadly global climate of 'the war on terror', and the opportunity to embrace the lessons learned by other faiths, the publication of this collection of essays is very welcome. Jonathan Benthall, with his many years of experience, is a voice that needs to be heard.'
Amelia Fauzia
Contemporary Islam
November 2016

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