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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Televangelists, media du'ā, and 'ulamā': The evolution of religious authority in modern Islam
by Floden, Tuve Buchmann, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2016, 186; 10161348
Abstract (Summary)

The rise of modern media has led to debates about religious authority in Islam, questioning whether it is fragmenting or proliferating, and exploring the state of the 'ulamā' and new groups like religious intellectuals and Muslim televangelists. This study explores these changes through a specific group of popular preachers, the media du'ā, who are characterized by their educational degrees and their place outside the religious establishment, their informal language and style, and their extensive use of modern media tools. Three media du'ā from the Arab world are the subject of this study: Amr Khaled, Ahmad al-Shugairi, and Tariq al-Suwaidan. Their written material – books, published interviews, social media, and websites – form the primary sources for this work, supplemented by examples from their television programs. To paint a complete picture, this dissertation examines not only the style of these preachers, but also their goals, their audience, the topics they address, and their influences and critics.

This study first compares the media du'ā to Christian televangelists, revealing that religious authority in Islam is both proliferating and differentiating, and that these preachers are subtly influencing society and politics. Second, it presents a theoretical analysis of their main audience – Muslim youth. Youth are strongly encouraged to take action, and thus serve as both the media du'ā’s tool for change and the target audience for their religious messages. Third, it provides evidence of how these preachers blend old sources with new issues and how they are shifting religious discourse to focus on life in this world, not just the afterlife. Finally, this study explores the ties between the media du'ā and the 'ulamā'. There is no clear line of demarcation between the du'ā’s ideological views and those of the 'ulamā', at least on big issues, and, the media du'ā often defer to the religious authority of the 'ulamā'. This study thus concludes that these preachers have two roles in society, that of agenda setters and motivators. This allows them to suggest issues that require attention, subtly affecting religious discourse, and then encourage their audience to act, thereby slowly enacting social and religious change.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Opwis, Felicitas M.
Commitee: Brown, Jonathan A. C., Voll, John O.
School: Georgetown University
Department: Arabic and Islamic Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 78/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Islamic Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Web Studies
Keywords: Islam, Media, Muslim youth, Popular preachers, Religious authority, Television
Publication Number: 10161348
ISBN: 978-1-369-16229-5
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