Why Ihsan?

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Reading and writing for leisure is a luxury not afforded to PhD students in the humanities, despite the fact that our bread-and-butter is supposedly that: reading and writing. Except as PhD students, we often do so at the dictates of our research, coursework or qualifying exams. The rare few among us are those whose work is simultaneously their leisurely escape, but even so,  there will always be a gnawing sense of guilt if and when we choose to write for purposes of other-than research, as it is implicitly deemed an act of “wasting”precious time. With that said, this blog is an attempt to chronicle my thought process as a PhD student in Islamic intellectual history, with the vision that observing the process is as important as the end goal itself; else, I fear that I may become a lifeless tumbleweed with no clarity or intention in my path or step. The pursuit of knowledge cannot and must not be aimless. It requires refinement, renewal, revision, humility and reassessment multiple times along the way. It also requires some soul and honesty, despite the harsh conditioning of academia that relegates us to becoming serious, hard nosed rationalists. And ultimately, it cannot be denied that the current political climate has capable researchers and academics of Islam stunted and muted. The mainstream rhetoric is under a stronghold of ignorance, fear mongering and the Tendency to Speak in Absolutes (what I like to call TSA, an unintentional ironic jab at the security apparatus that guards the entry ports to this great nation).

My informal blog Ihsanism is a play on the word “Islamism”, the word used to describe political Islam; one of the areas of my research that holds the intersection between ideology, Islam and modernity. Why Ihsan? It is one of the dimensions that constitutes the tripartite conception of what Islam is, according to the Hadith of Gabriel.  Ihsan is to “worship God as if one sees Him.” It is often used synonymously to mean the inner dimensions of knowledge, esotericism or Sufism. “Isms” as we all know, imply an ideology or organized political thought, hence, this space will be devoted to the fine barzakh (meeting place/limbo) between inner-dimensions of Islam, and the more mundane contemporary sphere and manifestations thereof, like culture, politics and gender.

 

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