Thursday, September 30, 2021

Introduction to the Indonesian Translation of "Constructing a Religious ideal Believer and Muslim Woman: Neo-Traditional Salafi and progressive muslims Methods of interpretation


I am delighted to write this introduction to the Indonesian translation of the first (and favourite) book that I authored and am deeply grateful to everyone involved in the process of its translation and publication. Incidentally, this year marks 10 years since its publication and I cannot think of any better way to celebrate but to make the book available to the Indonesian audience.

The book is a slightly modified version of my Ph.D dissertation that I completed in 2010 at the University of Western Australia and that was subsequently  published in Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl’s book series published by Palgrave in 2011. I am thankful and feel honored that Professor Abou El Fadl took interest in being one of my Ph.D. examiners, for finding it a valuable contribution to scholarship and for encouraging me to publish my work in his book series.  The book was translated into Arabic in 2013 ( available here for free).

In many ways the subject matter of the book is a reflection of the questions I as a Muslim of Bosnian heritage living in Australia was asking myself as I was becoming of age. More specifically, as an undergraduate student I came into contact with Muslims from various ethnic, national  and racial backgrounds  and  was fascinated with the question of differences in understanding and practicing of the Islamic faith that I witnessed. The understanding of the nature of the  concept of sunna was of a particular interest to me in this respect. In mid to late 1990s I came across the works of Fazrul Rahman ( d.1988) and the Pakistani Institute Al-Mawrid whose concept of sunna was markedly different from the more mainstream discussions that  for hermeneutical purposes  conflated the concept of sunna with that of an authentic ( sahih)  hadith. I continued to expand my knowledge of the  early concept of sunna , especially in the early Maliki and Hanafi  madhhab which led to the publication of some of my first academic articles on sunna published in Arab Law quarterly in 2007, 2009 and 2012 respectively . The culmination of my interest in the concept of sunna occurred in my editing of a volume on the concept of sunna in early, classical and modernist periods that was published by Palgrave in 2015 that, as far as I know, is still the most comprehensive scholarly  treatment of  the meaning of  concept of sunna and its evolution in various Islamic sciences.

The differences in understanding of the concept of sunna play an important part in the present study and the study in this respect  is informed by my previous publications on the topic mentioned above but its scope is broader and includes discussions pertaining to differences of interpretation in interpretational methodologies ( manahij) and various presuppositions underpinning them in relation to the Qur’an as well. In this respect the study focuses on two contemporary  interpretational currents whose genealogies go back to the very inception of the Islamic interpretive tradition and compares and contrasts them with respect to their manhaj based commitments. The study then examines how these fundamental differences at the level of interpretational methodologies result in very different views on what it  means to be an ideal Muslim Woman and the relationship between the concept of a muslim and a mu’min. The focus on the question of what it means to be an ideal  “Muslim Woman/Wife” ( and my implication that of an ideal Muslim man/husband)and her role and status in Islam  and the question of the nature of Muslim -non-Muslim relationship/interaction continue to attract a  lot of attention in both scholarly and non-scholarly circles. Answers to these questions  have important implications in Muslim contexts not only in  Indonesia as the most populous Muslim country in the world but also more broadly in relation to Islam- West relations in particular. 

Understanding factors and assumptions at the level of interpretational methodologies which lead to very different understandings and answers to these questions helps us not only to understand the spectrum of different opinions that exist in the Islamic interpretive tradition but also ideally to generate a level of interpretational empathy in relation to those with whom we might passionately  disagree precisely as a result of divergences at the level of the manahij but nonetheless understand where they are coming from and why and how they have arrived at these views. This is exactly one of my most important hopes, namely,  that with the translation of this book into Bahasa Indonesia that the often polarized and polarizing  discussions in Indonesia in relation to the issues this study examines  a higher level of interpretational awareness and tolerance can be reached. My other hope is that this book will stimulate further already very rich and intellectually vibrant and scholarly discussions that are already present in Indonesian scholarly circles.  

Pre-order details

Adis Duderija, August 2021.



Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Why We Should Engage in Respectful ‘Religion Talk” in Our Work Environments ( unedited version)



 Why We Should Engage in Respectful ‘Religion Talk” in Our Work Environments ( unedited version)


To appear in Thought Leadership- Professional Learning Hub , Griffith University



For a number of reasons in the broader Australian public sphere “Religion Talk” is considered by many as highly sensitive and controversial that should, as much as possible, be avoided in the context of day to day workplace dynamics. Possible reasons for such views could range from the idea  that in secular liberal democracies faith is viewed as a private  issue, a matter  of consciousness  and personal belief that has no place in the public sphere to that  of fear of conflict and the risk of being  seen as either a  religious/atheist zealot or coming across as being politically incorrect. While I do sympathise with some of these concerns  in this short piece I would like to suggest that respectful  “Religion Talk” should not be a taboo subject in the context of workplace environments and provide a few reasons why I think this is the case. By “Religion talk” I mean recognising the potential centrality and importance of religious commitments /worldviews that are not just internal to the individual but also have broader socio-political implications including those pertaining to work environments.


The Australian society is highly culturally and religiously diverse and this is reflected, more or less, in a variety of Australian workplaces.  Hence, our co-workers are likely to come from religious backgrounds that are different from ours (should we have any). Religious commitments can express themselves not only in a variety of abstract religious beliefs but also in concrete ways pertaining to an individual’s behaviour, dress, food, consumption choices, ethics and, yes, politics. Religious commitments, as such can have a very profound effect on a person’s overall worldview including that of our Prime Minister who does not shy away from acknowledging his Christian background, commitments and beliefs. Understanding these commitments and their various day to day implications, including those relevant for the workplace, therefore, becomes an important consideration. And as my extensive experience in engagement  in  interfaith work at grassroots level tells me there is not a better way  to facilitate a deeper understanding of the “Religious Other”  but in informal, individual ( or small group face to face) based environments that provide a platform for sustained, trust generating relationships, that we can find in many workplace contexts. 


Furthermore, since 9-11 in particular in our globalised, social media connected world, religion has been linked to many momentous geo-political events and has been on the mind of many people. One of the implications of this ‘rise of religion’ in the public sphere is that it has engendered or, in some cases, reaffirmed religion-based stereotypes that can be exceedingly harmful to the vibrancy and social cohesion of multicultural societies such as the Australian one. Moreover, these stereotypes are often present and greatly amplified on social media platforms that are not conducive to a nuanced and appreciative deliberation and exchange of views. Hence, another reason why respectful “Religion Talk” should occur in our workplaces. 


Let me explain the merits of “Religion talk” from an autobiographical angle too. In my professional life, I lecture in and do research on topics of religion and fundamentalism/ violence/ terrorism, religion and gender and religion and politics/ international relations with special emphasis on contemporary Islam.  Moreover, as an activist-minded scholar  who is passionate about and has over a two-decade-long track record   of grassroots engagement on issues of social justice, gender justice and interfaith harmony,  I find myself comfortable in engaging in  “Religion Talk”  outside of my professional context and have repeatedly witnessed the ‘benefits’ of engaging in such talk either with my students or my interfaith partners in various forms including appreciation of diversity and complexity of diverse manifestations of Islam and what it means to be a Muslim or indeed that of the “Religious Other”.


I am also a Muslim man of Bosnian ethnicity (who does not ‘invest in’ any external symbols associated with traditional Muslim religiosity out of faith-based convictions). Stereotypical views of Muslim men are usually linked to concepts such as religious fundamentalism/ conservatism, terrorism or that of a religious patriarch who has internalised toxic /traditional masculinity. They are often in circulation in mainstream media and, whether we like it or not, can be reflective of the realities of some Muslim men worldwide.  However, I (and many Muslim men I know), view myself as anything but through that stereotypical image. As an activist-minded academic and committed progressive Muslim specialising in the theory of progressive Islam (whose pillars are social justice, gender justice and religious pluralism), I self-identify as a left-leaning, pro-feminist, cosmopolitan, progressive spiritual pluralist simultaneously rooted in my religious/spiritual tradition and open to the best of that of others!  When I tell others (often the non-Muslim parents of my children’s friends or indeed colleagues from work) of my Muslim background and of my commitment to the values and the worldview of  progressive Islam, I am convinced that I help break some of those stereotypes. This, I am sure, would not have been possible if I was not open to “Religion talk” in public places including in my work environment.


So, for the reasons stated above, my advice would be to not shy away from “Religion Talk” in the workplace assuming, of course, we avoid the pitfalls of religious  dogmatism,  proselytism and highly politically charged views of religion. Instead, we should be respectfully curious in learning about and understanding our work colleagues’ religious commitments ( especially those that we might  consider, at the surface level,  foreign/exotic if not threatening)  and how they shape their motivations, values, character and everyday interactions. By doing so we could potentially broaden our cultural and intellectual  horizons, interrogate and, if need be, correct our assumptions, deepen trust and develop more meaningful relationships with our fellow colleagues even if we do not share their religious  commitments and their concomitant values or ways of operating in the world.  


Monday, April 27, 2020

This Ramadan: Resist Rigid Ritualism; Recognise Divine Receptivity

by Adis Duderija 
(Ph.D.) Senior Lecturer in the Study of Islam and Society

As a theoretician and proponent of progressive Islam, I often don’t see eye to eye with mainstream expressions of contemporary Islam on a number of ethical, socio-political and theological issues. This became painfully apparent, once again, on the topic of how to approach Ramadan in the time of a pandemic. While a number of traditional clerics and major institutions have, for the most part, taken COVID-19 seriously and mosques in many Muslim majority countries remain closed, there is a lack of appreciation that the various physical distancing restrictions associated with the virus seriously affect the mental, psychological and physical wellbeing of many people — and hence that this factor should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not fasting and the spiritual practices associated with it should go ahead as normal. I have not come across a single religious voice from traditional Islamic institutions that has expressed this opinion in the public.

As I ponder why this is the case, I think that one explanation is the huge emphasis mainstream Islam places on ritualistic forms of devotion, in general — so much so that alternative interpretations or practices which that depart from the “norm” are tantamount to unbelief and are liable for punishment in this life and in the life to come.Therefore, one practice that I think we need to resist — especially in the era of pandemics — is to conflate the spiritual practice of devotion with rigid ritualism. Muslims need to be accommodating of a broader range and variety of forms and expressions of devotion, such as intellectual forms of spirituality that invite us to continue to explore and interrogate our very concept of God.

I do think that the issue of ritualistic devotion is strongly correlated with the concept of God believers have internalised. As process and feminist theologians have maintained for some time now, traditional forms of theism have constructed a concept of God as an “Arbitrary Cosmic Moralist,” an “Unchanging and Passionless Absolute,” an “All Controlling Power” and a “Male” — and have accordingly ignored doctrines and theological depictions that portray God as a creative, receptive and responsive Power who is truly touched and affected by the suffering and ailments of humanity; a God who, amid a pandemic, is our Partner in healing us all and our planet. This, I submit, is a concept of God that we need now more than ever.

Published as a part  in a series of reflections on Ramadan in the era of Civod 19 on ABC Religion and Ethics Website