Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam

Publication Year



Based on actual cases, these original essays present an honest and critical evaluation of the problems and challenges that confront Muslims in the Contemporary world. Using the Muslim experience in the United States as a lens, the author examines what he identifies as a pervasive alienation suffered by Muslims over their place in history, source of identity, and moral foundations. The author imagines himself sitting in a conference of Islamic books- the Conference convening to examine the contemporary Muslim condition. Various influential intellectual trends are represented in this Conference, but the author is not a passive observer, he is an active participant who reacts to the Conference with introspection and critical moral insight. The author positions himself on a bridge between the intellectual heritage of Islam and the oppressive Muslim present, arguing that the salvation of one is intricately linked to the other. This book attempts to reclaim what the author maintains is a core moral value in Islam- the value of beauty. 


This highly original book is in part a dialogue with Muslim scholars in the past, and, in part, a hymn to an enthralling vision that 'beauty' is to bring life to the truth of the Prophet. The dialogue shows the enormous breadth of [the author's] reading in classic works of learning by Muslims, and his vision suggests a new spiritual esthetic, which is both inspiring and challenging.— Roy Parviz Mottahedeh, Gurney Professor of History, Harvard University

Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, the most important scholar writing on Islamic jurisprudence and its development in the American context today, sets a high standard here for legal discourse and practice among North American Muslims.— Karen Leonard, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine

Each independent essay may be read in any order, but collectively they illustrate richness and diversity...— Charles C. Kolb, National Endowment for the Humanities; Religious Studies Review

El Fadl attempts to offer interpretations that are humanistic and accommodating to modern values, yet simultaneously challenging for traditionalist scholars and preachers.— An-Chi Hoh Dianu; The Library Quarterly

Khaled Abou El Fadl is emerging as a major Muslim voice for the twenty-first century. 'Conference of the Books' is an excellent introduction to the ideas, insights, and reflections of this important scholar of Islam and Islamic law, author, and poet.— Prof. John L. Esposito, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University

University Press of America
Lanham, MD, and Oxford
Cloth: 9780761819493; paper: 9780761820819