by Steven R. Corman
CSC researcher Jeffry Halverson has published a new book on Muslim nonviolence. Titled Searching for a King: Muslim Nonviolence and the Future of Islam, the book is available through the publisher, Potomac Press and at Amazon.
At a time when violent images of the Muslim world dominate our headlines, people are growing increasingly interested in a different picture of Islam, specifically the idea of Islamic nonviolence, and what it could mean for the world. But is nonviolence compatible with the teachings of Islam? Is it practical to suggest that Muslim societies must adopt nonviolence to thrive in today’s world? SEARCHING FOR A KING offers a comprehensive look into Islamic conceptions of nonviolence, its modern champions, and their readings of Islam’s sacred texts, including the Qur’an and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad.
In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. stated: “Today there is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence; it is either nonviolence or nonexistence.” That same year, the Muslim world witnessed the humiliating defeat of the Arabs in the Six-Day War. It was a devastating rout, produced by the enduring fallacy of prosperity through violence. The postcolonial Muslim world has been plagued by the dubious narrative of violence, as a means to progress, prosperity, and prestige, among both revolutionary secular-nationalists and Islamist extremists. Entering the second decade of the 21st century, far from the independence struggles of the colonial era, the Muslim world continues to be plagued by violence and its devastating social and economic ramifications. From Nigeria to Palestine to Afghanistan, violence and the factions that champion it have failed to improve the lives of Muslims in nearly every way. SEARCHING FOR A KING is a provocative critique of violence in the modern Muslim world and its devastating social and economic impact on Muslim societies. Using rich historical narratives and data provided by leading international agencies to present his case, Islamic studies expert and historian of religions Jeffry R. Halverson presents nonviolence as a new path to prosperity for Muslim peoples.
SEARCHING FOR A KING reveals, that contrary to some Western depictions of Islam as inherently violent, the foundation for nonviolence in Islam already exists by exploring the fascinating lives and teachings of several modern Muslim champions of nonviolence, little known to the Western world. These Muslim scholars and activists include Jawdat Saeed (Syria), Wahiduddin Khan (India), Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Shirazi (d. 2001, Iraq), Mahmoud Muhammad Taha (d. 1985, Sudan), and Abdul-Ghaffar Khan (d. 1988, Afghanistan/Pakistan). These figures reflect the grand variety of regions and cultures in the Muslim world, and represent the two major branches of Islam, the Sunnis and Shi‘ites.
Furthermore, if freed of the high and wasteful costs of violent warfare, Halverson makes the case that nonviolence can open the door to important complementary initiatives, such as micro-financing and women’s education programs, that can have a tremendous impact on Muslim societies. Halverson concludes SEARCHING FOR A KING with a comprehensive endorsement of the Muslim champions of nonviolence and argues for the formulation of a nonviolent conception of jihad, as an active mode of social transformation, toward a future of social and economic prosperity for adherents of Islam around the world.
“Jeffry Halverson has written a book of extreme importance for our times. Searching for a King is a well-researched, meaningful, and much-needed volume that convincingly rebuts a narrative of violence that has for too long dominated discussions of Islam and Muslims. Offering a glimpse into the lives and works of five champions of peace, he reveals hidden beautiful teachings and unsung courageous acts that tell a different, inspiring story. Anyone who values peace and desires more equality in the world owes it to himself or herself to read this book.”
Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims
“The inspiring, informative, and well-documented narratives of Muslim champions of nonviolence presented in Searching for a King make a coherent and powerful case for Islamic nonviolence today.”
Prof. Abdullahi A. An-Na’im, Emory Law School, author of Islam and the Secular State (Harvard, 2008)