Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Ira Chernus

Second Advisor

Gregory Johnson

Third Advisor

Najeeb Jan

Abstract

Michael Muhammad Knight is known primarily as a provocative author concerned with the North American Islamic community. Knight gained attention with his 2004 novel, The Taqwacores, in which he detailed the lives of Islamic punk rockers, the eponymous taqwacores, as they navigated issues pertaining to religion, punk rock, youth, and life in Western modernity. Much of Knight's other writing is concerned with his own life, religion, and religious struggles, all of which are likewise represented in his fiction as well. Implicit throughout the totality of Knight's body of work is his desire to change the Islamic tradition so that it is able to better benefit individual practitioners. In a noteworthy 2003 essay, Knight argued that we should "forget what is and is not Islam," suggesting that it should be up to individual practitioners to determine what Islam is and is not. In this thesis, I argue that this statement is part of a larger program of reform, advanced by Knight and a group of progressive Muslims in the academy, that takes as its goal, the remaking of the Islamic tradition such that individual religious practitioners cannot be held responsible for any adherence to notions of orthodoxy and orthopraxy outside of their own personal preferences. Knight's reformation ideas would put an end to the meaningful use of authoritative models apart from the selves of individual Muslims. Thus, Islam would be completely divested of meaningful authority, and would become an Islam of the Self, founded on what I have termed an antidoxy. I argue this through close readings and discursive analyses of Knight's body of work, and through careful examination of the relationships between Knight, the progressive Muslims movement, and their approaches to understanding Islam as a part of the multicultural milieu of secular Western societies. I also provide a detailed analysis of the similarities and intersections between Knight's work and the literature of the progressive Muslims, and I consider the relationships between punk rock, authority, and freedom. I further supplement my argument with insights culled from the work of Talal Asad, and investigations into the construction of Arabic verbs.

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