Islam is more than a set of laws, rites and beliefs presented as a religious and social totality. As a word it covers a multitude of everyday forms and practices that are interwoven in complex, sometimes almost invisible ways in daily existence. Drawing exclusively on his own fieldwork in Egypt, South Arabia and the Lebanon, the author explores the nature of Islam and its impact on the daily lives of its followers; he shows that all the Western stereotypes of Islam and its practitioners need to be treated with considerable scepticism.
He demonstrates also that the understanding of Islam is dependent on recognizing a variety of class tensions and oppositions within an Islamic society. These have become all the more crucial in recent years with the growth of a capitalist economy, in which the forms and functions of the state have expanded considerably. This study focuses on the social and cultural divisions between very different groups and classes, ranging from the working masses of Cairo to the new bourgeoisie of Algeria and Morocco.
The accent of the book is on the forms and transformations of Islam within these different societies. The impact of colonialism is discussed in this context, and reformist and radical Islamic movements are analyzed in relation to shifting structures in class and society at large.
First published in 1982.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements. 1. An Anthropologist’s Introduction 2. The Men of Learning and Authority 3. The Community of Suffering and the World Reversed 4. The Operations of Grace 5. Miracles and Worldly Power: Lords and Sheikhs in North Lebanon 6. Sheikhs and the Inner Secrets 7. Everywhere and Nowhere: Forms of Islam in North Africa 8. Forming and Transforming Space 9. The Sacred in the City 10. The World Turned Inside Out: Forms of Islam in Egypt 11. Islamic Signs and Interrogations. Afterword: A Way of Walking. Note on Transliteration. References. Select Bibliography. Index