As many of our readers prepare to start the new academic year, The Qarawiyyin Project presents a special reading list dedicated to combatting some of the issues often faced at university. Ranging from personal development and activism, to imbibing an Islamic alternative to a liberal worldview, these books are aimed at equipping young Muslims with the confidence to navigate campus life.
Purification of the Heart
University is a time of, not only intellectual, but spiritual development for Muslim students. While some find this to be a period of immense growth, it can unfortunately be the cause for greater distance from Allah for others. In order to monitor one’s own spiritual development and relationship with The Creator as we confront the unique challenges of the university setting, we must be aware of which spiritual diseases afflict the heart and how to combat them. Each chapter of Purification of the Heart deals with one of these diseases, its symptoms, and its remedies. This book serves as a practical guide for tazkiyyah that students on the path to Allah should revisit regularly.
Length: 220 pages
The heart also needs to breathe, and the breath of the heart is none other than the remembrance of God.
2. Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life
Understanding tawhid, the nature of Allah’s oneness and His relationship with us as human beings, is the foundation of the Islamic worldview. Consequently, a proper understanding of Islam and our religious duties must start from this premise. Dr. Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi attempts to portray this for the novice reader in his landmark book, weaving in questions of morality, philosophy, and incidents from Islamic history. Touching on Islam’s timeless social and political systems, his writing serves as an important starting point for university students to solidify their understanding of the core principles underlying Islamic thought.
Length: 216 pages
If the concept of Tawhid is central to Islam and everything Islamic, it is because of its centrality to existence and everything that exists. Belief in the Divine Principle, the transcendent Allah, brings with it the understanding that all creation is subservient to Him. With this relationship at the core of all matters, all things and all creatures are thus interrelated, at least at the most basic level.
3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
As Muslims find themselves caught between the left and right of the political spectrum, the life of Al-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz is one of the greatest examples of what principled activism looks like. Recounting his early life through his membership with the Nation of Islam, his subsequent conversion to Sunni Islam and his life-changing trip to perform Hajj, the book keenly analyzes the suffering of the African-American community and the underlying nature of broader society. Malcolm’s activism, which turned the Civil Rights Movement on its head and challenged the core values at the heart of the American project, continues to strike a chord for minorities in the West battling racism and Islamophobia.
Length: 528 pages
‘Conservatism’ in America’s politics means ‘Let’s keep the niggers in their place.’ And ‘liberalism’ means ‘Let’s keep the knee-grows in their place – but tell them we’ll treat them a little better; let’s fool them more, with more promises.’ With these choices, I felt that the American black man only needed to choose which one to be eaten by, the ‘liberal’ fox or the ‘conservative’ wolf – because both of them would eat him. [At least] in a wolf’s den, I’d always known exactly where I stood; I’d watch the dangerous wolf closer than I would the smooth, sly fox. The wolf’s very growling would keep me alert and fighting him to survive, whereas I might be lulled and fooled by the tricky fox.
4. Why Liberalism Failed
Patrick Deneen’s latest book is an accessible, yet thorough read into one of the most relevant discussions of our time. Despite the topic’s often polarising nature, Deneen approaches the conversation outside of the typical left/right spectrum, instead looking at how both the left and the right have contributed to the failure of liberalism as a guiding force in society and governance. The book devotes chapters to issues such as individualism and statism, technology’s double sided role in expanding liberty, the changing role of the liberal arts, and the degradation of citizenship. Drawing on the theories of liberalism’s founding philosophers, as well as the current phenomena of Trump and Brexit, this book is an enlightening read for those with a desire to question the modern project.
Length: 264 pages
If I am right that the liberal project is ultimately self-contradictory and that it culminates in the twin depletions of moral and material reservoirs upon which it has relied, then we face a choice. We can pursue more local forms of self-government by choice, or suffer by default an oscillation between growing anarchy and the increasingly forcible imposition of order by an increasingly desperate state.