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Re-visioning Religion
on the crossroads of religion, mysticism and politics

Jonas Atlas in conversation with Abdal Hakim Murad

The islamic scholar Abdal Hakim Murad is the dean of the Cambridge Muslim College. In the 2020 edition of The Muslim 500, he’s placed in the top fifty of the most influential muslims in the world once again.

Earlier this year Murad published his book Traveling Home: essays on Islam in Europe, which discusses many pressing issues like Islamophobia, the ecological crisis and the place of religion in a secular world. As always, he succeeds in shedding a new light on such debates. He offers necessary nuances and transcends the ingrained dichotomies…


Fr. Jens Petzold

Deir Mar Musa

I belong to a small Christian monastic community of nuns and monks who contemplate Islam and interact with its different currents. Our community was founded in 1991, after the restoration of Deir [Monastery] Mar Musa in Syria. The site is an old sacred one, named after Mar Musa al-Habashi [Saint Moses the Abyssinian]. Already in the 6th century it was inhabited by hermits.

Since 2000, we have opened other monasteries as well: Deir Mar Elian in Quaryatayn, Syria; San Salvatore in Cori, Italy, close to Rome; and Deir Maryam al-Adhra in Sulaymaniyah, in the Kurdish Region of…


By Jonas Atlas

Religion is a daily theme in our social and political debates. Yet no matter how diametrically opposed the opponents in those debates can be, in the end they always also share a common ground: the assumption that it’s quite clear what the concept of ‘religion’ entails. People simply take it for granted that ‘religion’ is an age-old and universal concept.

But all in all, it isn’t. In fact, the concept of ‘religion’ is specifically linked to the Western European context and history. Until about two or three centuries ago — that is to say, before the European…


Jonas Atlas’ book is available now

Sufism is often described as ‘the mystical branch of Islam’. Giving some more attention to this underexposed spiritual side, it is often proposed, could help us to ease certain contemporary societal tensions. One finger then points toward the rigorous religious aggression of fundamentalism as ‘the problem’, while another points toward the soft beauty of mysticism as ‘the solution’.

Yet, no matter how well-intended the contemporary focus on Sufism might often be, in the end, it repeatedly portrays a lack of comprehension when it comes to Islamic mysticism. …


by Jonas Atlas

Even though religion is a core theme of many contemporary debates, a solid definition of the concept cannot be procured. Several possibilities have been proposed by plenty of academics, yet they vary greatly and no single definition ever became generally accepted. As such, it isn’t easy to clearly determine what exactly we’re talking about when we’re discussing all that ‘religious stuff’.

This lack of a definition does not necessarily cause many problems for our daily discussions. With or without a definition, we mostly assume we’re able to recognize a religious phenomenon when we see one. We’re aware…


By Jonas Atlas

It’s often thought that Christianity is predominantly occupied with dogma and ritual. Mysticism, so it seems, belongs to the fringes of the Christian tradition — certainly in its contemporary Catholic and Protestant forms. Yet Christian mysticism wasn’t always as marginalized as it is today. For a long time, it remained deeply entwined with both lay religion and institutionalized churches.

Just like in most (or perhaps all) other great religious traditions, the Christian search for truth was combined with a search for beauty. The masculine religious logic of theology and ethics found its counterbalance in the feminine religious…


A conversation with Michiel Leezenberg

By Dino Suhonic

Islam has a reputation of being exceptionally repressive when it comes to sex. Yet this reputation is surprisingly recent. Only a century ago the Islamic world was seen as licentious and sensual — even flat out effeminate.

These changes in the Western depiction of Islam are not just a reflection of changes in political relations and their ensuing propagandistic imagery. For many centuries, the Islamic world truly had a more tolerant stance towards male and female sexuality as well as towards homosexual desires and practices. Michiel Leezenberg, a professor at the university…


by Dr. D. Latifa

Monotheism itself is not some simple objective entity which functions in an invariable manner. There is also a psychology of monotheism and its internalization in the life of a community: the manner in which this large Greek word denoting belief in one God (Theos) has become a complex of images, feelings, metaphors, expressing the beliefs and everyday feelings of billions of ordinary people.

Image from the Classic ‘The Ten Commandments’

In contrast to the reality of a ‘polytheistic’ psyche, psychological monotheism refers to a literal attitude towards psychological, that is, symbolic events, in which, through a self-reflexive moral reductionism, one vision overwhelms all…


Jonas Atlas in conversation with Dr. D. Latifa

(Picture by Mohammed Anwerzada)

When I met the Pakistani psychologist Dr. D. Latifa for the first time in 2012, we were supposed to meet for a short interview, as part of a series of conversations with influential Muslim scholars, artists and activists. I eventually ended up staying three days at her home in Pakistan.

When we met, she felt the need to keep a low profile as she was very well aware of the fact that her ideas and propositions may evoke some aggressive opposition in certain circles. …


by Jonas Atlas

Tahir-ul-Qadri (Source: World Economic Forum CC-by-2.0)

The Pakistani Tahir-ul-Qadri (who resides in Canada these days) gladly presents himself as a great Sufi scholar. In that capacity, his hundreds of books are eagerly read by his thousands of followers from the (higher) middle classes of Pakistan. In 2010 he was abundantly praised by the international community when he published a more than six hundred page fatwa that denounced Islamic terrorism as inconsistent with the teachings of Islam. He was elaborately interviewed by news channels such as CNN, magazines such Foreign Policy Magazine and programs such as Al Jazeera’s ‘Frost over the World’. In my…

Re-visioning Religion

on the crossroads of religion, mysticism and politics

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