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Islamic Thought Expert Professor Sherman Jackson Speaks at Georgetown

Dr. Sherman Jackson during the lecture

Professor Sherman Jackson shared his expertise at a public lecture at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q). Jackson’s talk, titled ‘Probing the Islamic Secular: Preliminary Legal, Political, and Theological Implications’ was held on March 26 at GU-Q’s campus in Education City.

Jackson is the King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture and professor of religion and American Studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He was named as one of the top ten experts on Islam in America by the Religion Newswriters Foundation’s ReligionLink and among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.

“We are both honored and excited to host Dr. Sherman Jackson at Georgetown,” said GU-Q Professor Sohaira Siddiqui before the event. “Dr. Jackson has been a longstanding authority in the field of Islamic law and Islamic theology, and in his new work he seeks to address the modern condition of Muslims living in secular societies. The lecture promises to be both stimulating and provocative—opening the door for sustained dialogue and conversation around these important topics and questions.”

Jackson’s research interests include classic Islamic studies (law, theology, and intellectual history) and extend to the realities of modern Islam in the West, especially Muslim communities in America. His talk at Georgetown was related to his forthcoming book, tentatively titled Beyond Good and Evil: Shari’ah and the Challenge of the Islamic Secular.

“Many Muslims are suspicious of the concept of the Islamic Secular and worry that it will compromise the authority of Islam and or shari’ah, in order to make room for secular pursuits and considerations,” explained Jackson. “They believe that an act, idea, or institution can be either secular or religious but not both. I will dispel these and related notions and highlight the ways in which due attention to the Islamic Secular actually enhances rather than compromises the commitment to the religious in Islam.”

“I hope the audience will walk away with an informed understanding of the concept of the Islamic Secular and be empowered be to recognize its positive contributions to Muslim discourses,” said Jackson, who hoped the talk allowed the audience to share their thoughts and ideas with him as he continues working on the project. “I hope people will also be empowered to resist some of the misunderstandings that attach to the concept of the Islamic Secular as a result of the Western monopoly on some the language we have to use to articulate and explain it.” 

The scholar is the author of several books, including Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Towards the Third Resurrection (Oxford, 2005), Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering (Oxford, 2009), and Sufism for Non-Sufis? Ibn Ata Allah al-Sakandari’s Taj al-Arus (Oxford, 2012). He was previously the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Near Eastern Studies and visiting professor of law and professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).