Study of Muslim societies instead of Islamic studies


A review of Asef Bayat, “The Use and Abuse of ‘Muslim Societies’”, ISIM Newsletter, no 13, December 2003, p. 5.

written by M.L. Fauzi

As the written title, Bayat generally explores the term of `Muslim societies` which not only refers to both a `particular` culture and geographical area of the world but can serve as a useful analytical category. Different from the term of `Islamic world` or `Islamic Society` which implicitly denotes Islam as the central factor of shaping the social dynamics, the term of `Muslim societies`, with plural ‘s’ has a wider understanding and more concrete entities. Here, Muslims are free to interpret and perform their own reality in a differentiated fashion and, consequently, ‘culture’ becomes an always changing and flexible entity. 

Furthermore, Bayat suggests two advantages of the study of `Muslim societies`. The first is that societies are open to define and characterize themselves and the second is that a scholarly field presenting both the comparative advantages of area studies and disciplinary frameworks will enrich the empiric and theoretic research outcome. Hence, `Islamic studies` which has have its own particular focus and methodology is different from the study of `Muslim societies`.


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