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Searching for an ethical Muslim self in conversation with Islamic studies scholarship in South Africa and beyond

Aslam Fataar


This article presents an account of my search for ‘ethical agency’ in interaction with South African-based Islamic Studies scholarship. Based on auto-ethnographic approaches, I reflect on the evolution of my ethical self in a productive engagement with selected sets of Islamic scholarly readings that formed a critical part of such  formation. The article attempts to show how one person worked out his subjective responsiveness to unfolding events in the contingent fields of politics, popular culture and social justice-orientated activism. Readings in the history of my religious community, Islamic discourse and contemporary politics are pertinent to the subject’s unfolding ethical stances. The article illustrates how a reflexive engagement with these readings is central to an individual’s ethical discourses and subjectivity. It emphasises “the close relationships between reasoning, freedom, choice, power relations, and the creative influence of tradition in any example of ethical discourse and [self-]formation”.1 The article discusses three lines of ethical reading that represent how I have been processing my readings in the Islamic Studies discipline with respect to my ethical commitments. These commitments were developed in the context of opposition to apartheid and the socio-political exigencies of the democratic period after 1994. I end by reflecting on the shifting contingent terrain of the contemporary period in which the self establishes its ethical Muslim agency.

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eISSN: 0257-7062