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Lifeworlds of Islam

The Pragmatics of a Religion

Mohammed A. Bamyeh

Publication Date - 15 July 2021

ISBN: 9780197584323

256 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


How do old ideas continue to appear relevant in a modern world? A sociological approach to Islam allow us to approach an answer to this question.

In Lifeworlds of Islam, Mohammed A. Bamyeh shows that Islam has typically operated not in the form of standard dogmas, but more often as a compass for practical individual orientations or "lifeworlds." Through a comprehensive sociological analysis of Islam, he maps out how Muslims have employed the faith to foster global networks, public philosophies, and engaged civic lives both historically and in the present. Bamyeh further argues that all three fields are poorly understood in recent literature, which tends to focus on one specific problem or another and does not take into account the variety of lifeworlds in which Islam operates. The book contends that the larger preoccupations of ordinary Muslims-how to imagine a global society, how to guide life in the manner of a total philosophy, and how to relate to the world of daily struggles in organized or semi-organized civic forums and social movements-are neither unique to the present period nor to religious life. They are rather shared universal quandaries.

A focused empirical lens on the career of a religion, Lifeworlds of Islam contributes to the larger literature and provides insight into the nature of global citizenship, the philosophical needs of individuals, and the ethical values that foster social participation.


  • Combines historical and contemporary analysis to shows how certain ways thinking of history helps us understand, or misunderstand, the present
  • Combines analysis of activism and philosophical arguments to show the complexity of Muslim people
  • Synthesizes recent scholarship to provide a comprehensive survey of the literature on modern Islam

About the Author(s)

Mohammed A. Bamyeh is Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He was the lead author of Social Sciences in the Arab World (2015). His other books include The Social Origins of Islam; Intellectuals and Civil Society in the Middle East; Anarchy as Order; The Ends of Globalization; and Of Death and Dominion; in addition to a few edited volumes. Previously he served as the editor of International Sociology Reviews and is currently President of the Board of Trustees of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS).


"Lifeworlds of Islam is a product of immense learning with an impressive historical and geographical span across multiple periods of Islamic history and many Muslim-majority societies. Moreover, the author succeeds in deriving lucid and substantial arguments out of this vast material." -- Ateş Altinordu, American Journal of Sociology

"Bamyeh examines Islam in terms of three lifeworlds, or realms of individual experience (both from the past and in the present)-the social, the philosophical, and the global-and he devotes a chapter to each. Comparatively little has been written on this topic, as the author admits, so his thoughtful and well-articulated book makes a significant addition to the scholarly literature on Islam... Summing up: Recommended" -- J. Jaeger, CHOICE

"In this highly perceptive text, the sociologist Mohammed Bamyeh has given us a perspective of Islam that has been desperately needed for so long. Rather than focusing on its doctrinal systems, Lifeworlds of Islam explores how Islam manages to persist as a key reference point because it constantly adjusts itself in its engagement with the pragmatics of public life. Deeply informed and exceedingly readable, it is a valuable contribution to the sociology of Islam." -Asef Bayat, Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

"This book dispels myths of Islamic exceptionalism. It shows how the sociological study of Islam in history and the present can provide benchmarks for a wider, worldly understanding of ideas of autonomy, authority, and solidarity. And yet, the reader will learn to appreciate the particularly empowering repertoires of Islamic traditions and to situate them judiciously within global processes." -Armando Salvatore, author of The Sociology of Islam: Knowledge, Power and Civility

"With his focus on the lifeword and the contested meanings of what Islam has meant for Muslims in the last two centuries and in situations as diverse as Central Asia, India, Albania, Turkey, or the Arab world, Bamyeh produces stunningly nuanced interpretations and proposes articulations that will prove decisive for the writing of a new global social theory of religion. An eye opener for social theorists, and scholars versed in religious and social movement studies." -Benoit Challand, Associate Professor in Sociology, New School for Social Research

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Islam as Lifeworlds
    1. Islam as Social Movement
    2. Islam as Public Philosophy
    3. Islam as Global Order
    Conclusion: Islam as Reserve Discourse
    Works cited