University of Delaware professor seeks to reframe religious narrative
In the days, months and years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Muqtedar Khan found himself grappling with an unrelenting question of faith and identity: “If al-Qaeda, ISIS, and all the human rights violations committed in the name of Islam are not my faith,” he would ask himself, “then what is?”
The University of Delaware professor of international relations calls his most recent book, Islam and Good Governance, “my much-delayed response.”
Simultaneously an endorsement of religious and political freedom and an academic reinterpretation of the Quran, the book seeks to reclaim the beauty, mysticism and virtues of Islamic teaching through a concept Khan said he believes, “Muslims have not yet understood — or simply ignored.”
That concept is Ihsan, taken from the Quran passage that says, “God is with those who do beautiful deeds.” In Islamic tradition, it also lives in the words of the prophet Muhammad, who was asked by the angel Gabriel to define Ihsan: “To Worship Allah as if you see him; and if you can’t see Him, know that He sees you.”
Rethinking the Muslim religion through this lens will require a fundamental philosophy shift, Khan said. Ihsan goes against how many economies and institutions have evolved over centuries. It stands in opposition to how the Muslim world is perceived and understood.
“An Islamic State is currently one where Islamic Law is enforced — and these are laws that come from the medieval understanding of Islam. Until we change that, we will never have good governance,” he said. “It is unfair of Muslims to demand non-Muslims bypass realities like ISIS and al-Qaeda and discover true Islam. Muslims must manifest what it is. The Prophet has said three times that you’re not a Muslim if your neighbor is afraid of you.”