It is constructed by interrelated factors


A review of Michael Gilsenan, Recognizing Islam: An Anthropologist’s Introduction, London: Croon Helm, 1982.

written by M.L. Fauzi

A number of stories from his own experience of visiting Arab countries (Yemen, Egypt, and Lebanon) are evidence of how the meanings of Islam in a society are constructed and influenced by interrelated factors. Social classes, economic conditions, and the nature of relationship between town and country are one of a variety of phenomena anthropologists should deal with in the study of anthropology Islam. As a result, it is a must, according to Gilsenan, to set the different things that Muslims themselves regard as Islamic within their life and to realize the development of their societies as a sensible sociological rule.

Identifying Islam as an analytical object of study, he states that Islam, meaning submission to God, is constructed upon what Muslims believe. Thus, it is important to dissolve Islamic conceptions and give a more cautious awareness of what the term Islam comes to mean in quite different economic, political, and social structures and relations. To conclude, Islam, according to him, is definitely discussed not as a single, rigidly bounded set of structures determining or interacting with other total structures but rather as a word, that identifies varying relations of practice, representation, symbol, concept, and worldview within the same society and between different societies.


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