Hidden Bodies in Islam: Secular Muslim Identities in Modern (and Premodern) Societies

  • Richard C. Martin
Part of the Muslims in Global Societies Series book series (MGSS, volume 1)


This chapter begins by asking why there has been a general lack of interest in secular Muslims, especially among historians of religion and Islamicists.1 This, despite the unconfirmed belief by many observers that a very large percentage of the world Muslim population do not adhere strictly, if much at all, to the fundamental beliefs and practices of their religion. That is, while retaining some form of Muslim, if not Islamic, identity, they lead secular lives and think through most of life’s problems and challenges by means of secular world views, though they may not necessarily renounce their faith or think ill of family and friends who are religious. The significance of secularism among Muslims goes largely unexamined in most works on Islam and Muslim societies. On the other hand, it is in the writings novelists, such as Nasruddin Farah, Orhan Pamuk and Naguib Mahfouz, that Western readers learn something about the complex and contested relationships Muslims have with the state and with Islamist, liberal, progressive and secular Muslims, as well as with non-Muslims. In religious studies, Islamic beliefs and practices, the usul al-din and the ‘ibadat, have been fundamental to the representation of Muslim identities. This paper does not challenge the usefulness of essentialist definitions of Islam based on normative beliefs and practices; it simply asserts that is not the whole story.


Public Intellectual Muslim Society Islamic Society Muslim Identity Secularization Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard C. Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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