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Essays

Muslims in the Metaverse

Metaverse Muslims

New digital technologies like VR, holograms and immersive museums make it possible for Muslims to go on a virtual pilgrimage (or “v-hajj”), echoing a long tradition of hajj tourism products that persist despite provoking backlash from religious authorities who wish to preserve the “authentic” pilgrimage celebration.

The ‘Arab Awakening’: A Popular but Dubious Myth

The 'Awakening' That Wasn't?

Experts cling to the idea of a 19th-century Arab renaissance or “nahda,” but they define it so differently that it becomes impossible to reconcile. Thinkers like Elie Kedourie and Albert Hourani knew this and suspected it was a deliberate attempt to distract from the real agenda, which was nationalistic.

Atlas Lions’ Eyes Burn Brightly, but Their Future May Be Dark

Atlas Lions’ Eyes Burn Brightly, but Their Future May Be Dark

Around 100 captive Atlas lions with a genetic connection to the Moroccan royal collection remain around the world. Can we emulate the lion’s courage and bravery to save it from extinction? Instead of being a mere memory, the animal belongs to a breathing, living world. It can be saved with timely action.

A New Theory: European Cathedrals Show Traces of Ancient Egypt

A New Theory: European Cathedrals Show Traces of Ancient Egypt

For years, I’ve been on an architectural odyssey, a quest for the origins of the zigzag. Curiosity was first sparked in 2005 after buying and restoring my Ottoman courtyard house in Damascus. Round all four courtyard walls, there was a distinctive decorative design — a trio of horizontal zigzags. My Syrian architect speculated it might be an ancient Mesopotamian pattern, but neither he, nor anyone else I asked, had any idea why it was chosen or what it signified.

The Amazing Life of the Ottoman Bosnian Ahdname

The Amazing Life of the Ottoman Bosnian Ahdname

What was once a legal and diplomatic document argued over in Ottoman courts became a symbol of what the Ottoman conquest meant for Muslim and non-Muslim communities, and that legacy continues to shape identity and belonging in modern day Bosnia.

Middle East Myths and Monsters Reveal Our Humanity

Middle East Myths and Monsters Reveal Our Humanity

Middle East folklore is full of jinn, giants and ghouls. These creatures seem far from human, but in fact they reveal, by contrast, what being human really means. They’re a shrine to the sneaking suspicion that ours isn’t the only reality that exists and that other realities bleed into our own.

Oxford Study Sheds Light on Muhammad’s ‘Underage’ Wife Aisha

Oxford Study Sheds Light on Muhammad’s ‘Underage’ Wife Aisha

Liberal, modernist and reformist Muslims have long sought to deny the historical authenticity and religious authority of the Aisha marital hadith, whereas ultraconservative, fundamentalist and extremist elements forcefully defend it. Meanwhile, many moderate traditionalists fall somewhere in between, seeking to affirm the authenticity of the hadith (and the Hadith canon overall) even as they discourage child marriage in practice, deeming it to be inappropriate in our modern-day sociohistorical context.