Hurray for me! I FINALLY (no, really -- I MEAN finally!) settled on a topic that not only interests and fascinates me but is also extremely relevant to modern affairs among Muslims, especially South Asian Muslims. I'm still gonna continue my digging for works on honor and Pashtun women, but that'll have to wait until I am working on my PhD dissertation! If, when the time comes, I realize that I wanna deal with gender in Islamic law and hermeneutics and Islam and feminism or something else, then no biggie at all: I'll just do my fieldwork in Swat/Pashtunkhwa whenever my future allows me, ka khair wee.
What's my topic, you ask? Ahhh, what but the notion of authority in Islam and the great and highly revered Zakir Naik, beloved friends! Now, any thesis adviser will tell you that that's just not specific enough, that it needs to be narrowed down. Sure thing - not to worry: I will deal with Zakir Naik and women's rights and his views on women in other religion, or in the west. (You know how he's always attacking the west for its representation of women. He lives in this ideal world in which women are treated with so much respect and love, and they're so appreciated for EVERYTHING that they do for the world. And the west, this infidel west, is nothing but a bad, bad, bad place for women. He's also always attacking other religions, appearing like an authority on other religious scriptures when anyone who just thinks about what he's really saying about those religions can figure out the wrong things he's teaching about those religions! It's truly a crisis. Muslims listen to them with the idea that "as Muslims, we're the only ones right. Everyone else is wrong. Let's just wait for Zakir Naik to tell us how they're wrong." Dude! Come ON! Read yourself! Study yourself!...k, yeah.) And, so, I think it's important and needs to be discussed in the academic world.
Last year, my "Islam in South Asia" professor asked me what suggestions, if any, I might have for him to make the course not only more appealing but wider in scope as well. Well, the first thing I said was: Academic scholars, especially those educated in western or other secular institutions, have little to no influence on Muslims' lives and belief systems; it is preachers like Zakir Naik, Ahmad Deedat, Yusuf Estes, etc. who have more power, more authority, and more influence. When we discuss Islam in South Asia, we NEED to talk about these figures because, although we strongly disagree with them and are aware of their lack of deep knowledge of Islam, it is THEY who everyone listens to. And so I suggested to my professor that he either write something on this himself or then search for some. You shouldn't graduate with an Islamic Studies badge unless you understand what power preachers like the above-mentioned ones have over Muslims and why Muslims look up to them to begin with.
More about my thesis will be discussed in the academic blog I'm creating right now (it's taking time 'cause it has to have the PERFECT name, PERFECT literature, PERFECT style, PERFECT look -- everything perfect. You understand.), but this was just to say: I am happy and relieved that all worked out well after all :D Hey, now I know how to guide someone who might be in the position I was in these last few weeks!
Peace be upon the world!