Muslim Journeys

Muslim Journeys

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The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is conducting a special initiative, Bridging Cultures, that engages the power of the humanities to promote understanding of and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives within the United States and abroad.  This year's program is entitled Muslim Journeys, and DC Public Library is fortunate to be a part of this program. Nine libraries in DC will receive a set of 25 books and three videos on Islamic culture, both historic and contemporary, and these locations will host a series of special Muslim Journeys themed events over the course of the entire year. 

DC Public Library has partnered with university scholars, cultural institutions, and the local Muslim community to bring you a series of highly educational and informative conversations about the role that Islamic culture has both here at home and abroad.  Come join us on the journey.

Themes and Books | Scholars | Cultural Institutions | Muslim Community | Events | Sponsors

Themes and Books

American Stories

While the large presence of Muslims in the United States dates to the 1960s, Muslims have been a part of the history of America since colonial times. American Muslims’ stories draw attention to ways in which people of varying religious, cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds interact to shape both their communities’ identities and our collective past.

Prince Among SlavesThe Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United StatesActs of FaithA Quiet RevolutionThe Butterfly Mosque
Prince Among Slaves
by Terry Alford
Acts of Faith 
by Eboo Patel
A Quiet Revolution 
by Leila Ahmed
The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam
by G. Willow Wilson

Connected Histories

Centuries before the dawn of the modern age, the world was already a surprisingly interconnected place. Readings for this theme introduce a way of understanding the past in which Islam and the West are seen as products of a shared, cosmopolitan, and inextricably intertwined past. These books help envision the world of our ancestors, which was as complex and dynamically interconnected as the world we live in today.

When Asia Was the WorldThe House of WisdomThe Ornament of the WorldLeo AfricanusIn an Antique Land
The Ornament of the World 
by Maria Rosa Menocal
Leo Africanus 
by Amin Maalouf, translated by Peter Sluglett
In an Antique Land 
by Amitav Ghosh

Literary Reflections

Islam has long provided a source of inspiration through which Muslims experience, understand, and guide their everyday lives. The readings for this theme can be seen as literary reflections on Muslim piety and communal concepts such as ethics, governance, knowledge, and identity. Each one reveals transformations in faith and identity, as Muslims living at different times and in different places have interpreted Islamic traditions to meet their distinctive cultural realities and spiritual needs.

The Arabian NightsThe Conference of BirdsSnowDreams of TrespassMinaret
The Arabian Nights 
(anonymous), edited by Muhsin Mahdi, translated by Husain Haddawy
The Conference of the Birds 
by Farid al-Din Attar, translated by Dick Davis and Afkham Darbandi
by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely
Dreams of Trespass 
by Fatima Mernissi
by Leila Aboulela

Pathways of Faith

Following the correct pathway to spiritual fulfillment and success is a key Islamic principle. Readings for this theme explore the basic requirements for learning and obeying the precepts of the Qur’an, following Muhammad’s teachings, and engaging in specific formal practices. Also introduced are the pathways leading from Judaism and Christianity to Islam, the youngest of the three Abrahamic religions; the divergent paths followed by the Sunni and Shia communities; and the mystical routes to spiritual fulfillment known as Sufism.

The Children of AbrahamMuhammad: A Very Short IntroductionThe Story of the Qur'anThe Art of HajjRumi: Poet and Mystic
Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction 
by Jonathan A. C. Brown
The Art of Hajj 
by Venetia Porter
Rumi: Poet and Mystic
edited and translated by Reynold A. Nicholson

Points of View

The drama of conflict, chaos, and war come to Western readers in daily newspaper stories, but the news gives us scant details about how people live their lives in Islamabad, Fez, Cairo, or Tehran. Through the titles in “Points of View,” readers will encounter individual experiences in Muslim-majority societies through memoirs and novels representing a diverse geography and some of the best contemporary storytelling.

In the Country of MenPersepolisHouse of StoneBroken VersesDreams of Trespass
In the Country of Men 
by Hisham Matar
House of Stone 
by Anthony Shadid
Broken Verses 
by Kamila Shamsie
Dreams of Trespass 
by Fatima Mernissi


Zainab Alwani, Associate Professor Islamic Studies, Howard University 

Zainab AlwaniDr. Zainab Alwani is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at the Howard University School of Divinity. She is an Islamic scholar, researcher, and community activist. In addition to being the first female jurist to serve on the board for the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), Dr. Alwani currently serves as the Vice President of the FCNA. Her research focuses on Quranic studies, Islamic jurisprudence, the relationship between civil and religious law in the area of family and gender, comparative religions, and inter-religious dialogue.  
Jonathan A.C. Brown, Associate Professor Islamic Studies Georgetown 

Jonathan BrownJonathan AC Brown received his BA in History from Georgetown University in 2000 and his doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2006. Dr. Brown has studied and conducted research in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, India and Iran, and he is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His books include The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon (Brill, 2007), Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World (Oneworld, 2009) and Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011).  He will be discussing his book Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction.
Daniel Madigan, Professor Georgetown Theology 

Daniel MadiganDaniel Madigan S.J. is an Australian Jesuit priest who joined Georgetown's Department of Theology in 2008, and where he is currently Director of Graduate Studies. He is also a Senior Fellow of The Al-Waleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown, where he is directing a project on Christian theologies that are responsive to Islam. Madigan is also Honorary Professor of the Australian Catholic University. Professor Madigan will be lecturing on The Conference of the Birds, and other books in the “Pathways of Faith” series.

Peter Mandaville, Director, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies

Peter MandavilleDr. Peter Mandaville is the Director of the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies and Associate Professor of Government at George Mason University. He is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. In 2011-12, during the Arab Spring, he served as a member of the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State. He was the Founding Director of GMU’s Center for Global Studies and his visiting affiliations have included American University, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Pew Research Center.  Dr. Mandaville will be discussing contemporary issues in the Islamic world.
Joseph Ross, Gonzaga College High School, Dept. of English
Joseph Ross

After studying English at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Joseph Ross taught high school in Southern California and then went on to receive an M.Div. at the University of Notre Dame. Ross taught in Notre Dame’s Freshmen Writing Program before moving to Washington, D.C. in 2000, where he founded the Writing Center at Carroll High School, taught at American University, and currently teaches in the Department of English at Gonzaga College High School.  Mr. Ross will be lecturing on the poet Rumi.

Huseyin Yilmaz, Co-Director, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies

Huseyin YilmazHuseyin Yilmaz specializes in cultural and intellectual history of the Ottoman Empire. He received his Ph.D. in 2005 from Harvard University in History and Middle Eastern Studies. He formerly taught at the University of South Florida and Stanford University. His previous fellowships include American Research Institute in Turkey and Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften, Vienna.  Professor Yilmaz will be lecturing on works from the  American Stories, Points of View, and Connected Histories themes.

Cultural Institutions

America’s Islamic Heritage Museum

America's Islamic Heritage Museum opened to the public on April 30, 2011. Located in Washington, D.C., it is a continuation of the traveling exhibition, Collections and Stories of American Muslims (CSAM) which was established as a non-profit in 1996. Before opening the museum, CSAM travelled domestically and internationally, hoping to better inform the public of the early and continued presence of Muslims in America. 
Speakers from AIHM: AIHM President and Curator, Amir N. Muhammad

American Islamic Congress 

The American Islamic Congress believes American Muslims must take the lead in building tolerance and fostering a respect for human rights and social justice. The AIC works to change the discourse within both the American Muslim community and in the broader American Society. AIC advocates for the American Muslim community, meeting with leaders on Capitol Hill and government agencies and collaborating with NGOs and campaigns.
Speakers from AIC may include:
  • Executive Director, Zainab Al-Suwaij;
  • Director of Government Relations, John Pinna;
  • Director of Civil Rights Outreach, Nasser Weddady;
  • Project Nur Manager, Shakir Mohammed;
  • and via Skype, Director of Tunisia programs, Sofiane Khammer.
The Islamic Society of North America 

The Islamic Society of North America has served the Muslims of this continent for well over forty years. During this period, ISNA has provided many invaluable services to the Muslim community of North America. Most manifest of course, is the ISNA Annual Convention, which, since its very inception has been a meeting place of people and ideas. In addition to building bridges of understanding and cooperation within the diversity that is Islam in America, ISNA is now playing a pivotal role in extending those bridges to include all people of faith within North America. 
Speakers from ISNA may include: Director of Community Outreach, Dr. Mohammed Elsanousi.

The Muslim Community

Masjid Muhammad 

Located in Washington, D.C., and dating back to the mid 1930s, Masjid Muhammad is a nonprofit 501(c)3 religious organization and is representative of the oldest Muslim community in the nation’s capitol. Called “The Nation’s Masjid”, it was the first masjid or mosque to be built in the nation from the ground-up by grassroots American citizens. Located just off of New Jersey Avenue NW on Islamic Way, Masjid Muhammad has long been a pillar in the neighborhood, the city of Washington, D.C., as well as a leader in an association of more than 2000 Masjids and Islamic Centers nationwide.
The Yaro Collective

The Yaro Collective is a multi-group network that seeks to create  a community without walls, where discussions are free and open, people come as they are, and can collaborate to build better communities for all. The Yaro Collective facilitates the environment and spiritual space needed for a holistic and culturally relevant understanding of Islam, where creativity is nourished and diversity is valued.


The Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, conducted in cooperation with the American Library Association, the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University, Oxford University Press, and Twin Cities Public Television. Support was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

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